Appeal for information on paintings

More than 30,000 oil paintings from across Scotland are now online following the completion today of a massively ambitious project to put online the United Kingdom’s entire collection of oil paintings in public ownership.

This makes the UK the first country in the world to give such access to its national collection of paintings. In total, 3217 venues across the UK – including 441 in Scotland – have participated in the project and 211,861 paintings are now on the Your Paintings website at

Oil paintings in Dumfries and Galloway’s public collections have been photographed by the Public Catalogue Foundation and can now be viewed on the BBC Your Paintings website.

Collection curators in Dumfries and Galloway are appealing to the public to help fill in details. Some of the portrait-sitters are unknown, as are a few of the artists. Museum curator Siobhan Ratchford explained: “We worked with a local photographer and PCF representative to provide access to oil paintings held in local museums, galleries and public buildings. There are quite a few paintings that we do not know very much about. This is where members of the public can get involved and tell us more.”

Museums officer Joanne Turner added: “The website is fascinating – already it has given us some ideas for collaborative exhibitions and highlighted some works that we would like to borrow from other collections. It is also interesting to see our paintings sit alongside other works by the same artist from collections across the rest of the UK. So far, a couple of details in our entries need correcting and if anyone else spots an inaccuracy or has more information about any of the paintings, then they can feed that information into a response form on the web site or contact the relevant venue directly.”

Your Paintings is a partnership between the Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF) and the BBC. The PCF started making a photographic record of the UK’s oil paintings in 2003. The Your Paintings website, built by the BBC, was launched with 63,000 paintings in June 2011. The project covers paintings not only held by museums and galleries but also works in universities, local councils, hospitals and even paintings held in fire stations, zoos and a lighthouse. Typically 80% of these paintings are not on view whilst the vast majority have never been photographed. All oil paintings are shown irrespective of perceived quality and condition.

Your Paintings now allows everyone to see the full extent of the national collection for free together with BBC TV documentary archive and biographical information for selected artists from Oxford University Press. It is a project that will benefit art enthusiasts, students, curators, researchers, tourists and anyone unable to make the journey to the collections. In February 2013, the BBC will lead a nationwide celebration of Your Paintings with many opportunities for the public to discover paintings that have rarely been on view. More information will be announced on Twitter @your_paintings .

To help the PCF and BBC identify and catalogue what can be seen in each painting, the public are being invited to “tag” the nation’s paintings. Tagging is fun, easy and you don’t need to be an art expert to do it. The results will allow future users of the Your Paintings website to find paintings of subjects that interest them. Your Paintings Tagger can be reached through the Your Paintings website.