An incredible resource and just great fun is the United Kingdom’s Public Catalogue Foundation paintings online at the BBC website. The archive contains more than 210,000 paintings by 40,000 artists—more are being added as you read this. And they are all online.
It’s the first archive to include all the paintings in a nation’s public collections. The organizations that own the paintings include the National Trust, English Heritage, the Government Art Collection and Arts Council England. The collections are held by museums, universities, hospitals, town halls, local libraries, and even a lighthouse. It would take years to see all of them in these varied locations. it would take months just to find out when they are open.
The Wikipedia of Paintings
The site is beautifully designed so it easy to use. You can both view the paintings and tag them. Eventually, it will be a resource as amazing as Wikipedia with paintings indexed in all manner of ways, including painter, nationality, dates, media, title, subject, and style.
The tagging system helps choose accurate tags. When I typed in a word, I was given a list of standard tags to choose from. Each one defined. This is reassuring at the highest level because it goes as far as possible in the direction of accurate tagging. When i want to find a automobile, I won’t have to type “car” plus every other name that might ever had been associated with it in order to find all the paintings that include automobiles.
I just tagged a 17th century painting of a woman in an elegant hat with “ribbon,” for example. In a few years, even a few months, i will be able to find needlework examples of the use of ribbons in dozens of paintings. And they won’t include paintings with ribbons of water or ribboned fields of wheat.
This is a fabulous place to learn about paintings and teach children about paintings. Tagging is engaging and the more points of view there are the better. Children see very different things than adults. There are no age restrictions.
What Can You Find and Do There?
What makes this collection different is that it is huge and contains such variety, and the tagging system which allows you to create your own collections of paintings to view.
Want to see how kittens have been portrayed in the last 400 years? Want to tag gloves to show that gloves are an interesting subject in 19th-20th century paintings? To see when earrings started appearing on women — and men? To see when fish became an subject worth painting and why? This is your place. Don’t miss it.
About the Public Catalogue Foundation
The Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF) in the United Kingdom plans to digitize all the paintings in the National Trust and other public collections in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The organizations that own the paintings include the National Trust, English Heritage, the Government Art Collection and Arts Council England. The collections are held by museums, universities, hospitals, town halls, local libraries and even a lighthouse.