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London celebrates Your Paintings

TO CELEBRATE Your Paintings, oil paintings from the UK national collection not seen in generations will go on show at galleries, museums and civic buildings across London from Friday, February 8, 2013. Many reveal forgotten stories about Londoners and the city.

The exhibitions are part of a nationwide series of events to celebrate the completion of Your Paintings, a website for the entire UK national collection of oil paintings created by the BBC in partnership with the Public Catalogue Foundation. All 211,861 paintings are now available to view online at

Held in over 3,000 galleries, museums and other civic buildings around the country, these paintings span over 600 years of art history – arguably the greatest national collection of its kind in the world. Due to limitations of exhibition space, 80% of these works are normally held in storage and not easily visible to the people who own them – the UK public.

The Your Paintings website features 46,000 paintings held by 273 museums, galleries and public buildings in London. They include major arts institutions and museums such as the Tate, National Gallery, National Maritime Museum and Imperial War Museum, alongside local museums and archives, hospitals, magistrate’s courts, schools, colleges, civic offices and libraries.

From Sunday, February 10 to Friday, March 1, London Borough of Barnet Local Studies and Archives will display up to 20 oil paintings which have been kept in storage for many years. They include Old Jack’s Snack Bar, 1941 by L. F. Nichols.

At first glance, the painting seems to depict a leisurely scene – an empty room with pool table, bookshelf and cards. On closer inspection though, a lone service hat on a chair and an AFS sign on the bookshelf, reveal it to be Hendon Auxiliary Fire Service Station, run by volunteers during the Blitz. An open door, overturned chair, upset cards and discarded boots show all the signs of a hurried rush to action.

From Saturday, February 9, Vestry House Museum in Waltham Forest will exhibit nine works of art that have not been seen in public for many years. They include three rarely seen paintings of the local area by Cyril Mann, the London figurative painter who lived in Waltham Forest from 1966 to his death in 1980.

Another six paintings left in storage for decades have been conserved especially for the exhibition, with support from the Walthamstow Historical Society. They include a 1974 painting of the Wells Brimtoy mechanical toy factory, which closed in the 1960s, painted from memory by G. T. Colvin who worked in the factory after World War Two. Like L. F. Nichols, it is his only contribution to the collection.

Unseen paintings will also be on show at: Sir John Soane’s Museum, Lincoln’s Inn Fields; Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London; Bruce Castle Museum, Haringey; Burgh House & Hampstead Museum, Islington Local History Centre and Museum and Valence House Museum, Dagenham.

Activities for families will also take place during half term week, including the opportunity to help recreate a ‘Big Art Canvas’ masterpiece at Lewisham Shopping Centre with CBBC presenter Michelle Ackerley. Each family will be given a piece of the painting to complete on a square of canvas, with the parts reassembled to complete the painting at the end.

Londoners are invited to ‘tag’ paintings in their local collections on the website. This data will allow future users of the Your Paintings website to easily find paintings of subjects, themes and events that interest them. The tagging process doesn’t require expert knowledge, but those with specialist information on paintings in the collection are invited to contact the Public Catalogue Foundation by sending comments through the Art Detective feature on each painting page on the Your Paintings website.

Andrew Ellis, Director of the Public Catalogue Foundation said:

‘No other country has ever embarked on such a project to make accessible online its entire collection of oil paintings. The result is an extraordinary rich and varied virtual gallery of paintings with styles and subject matters to suit all tastes and interests. Anyone can now contribute to the project by tagging paintings so that the paintings can be searched in future. Tagging is easy, fun and, for many, addictive!’

Saul Nassé, Controller BBC Learning said:

‘The idea that we could put on virtual display all the UK’s paintings was madly ambitious, but thanks to a brilliant partnership with the PCF, we’ve realised that ambition. Your Paintings is a thing of beauty and I’m hoping the events that we’re rolling out right across the country are going to inspire thousands more people to learn about these wonderful paintings.’

Taken together, this collection of 211,861 paintings presents an unparalleled insight into the nation’s culture and history. Paintings by over 37,000 artists are on the Your Paintings website, including Old Masters and works by leading British artists. Just under 30,000 paintings do not have firm artist attributions, leaving the possibility of important discoveries in years to come.

The National Trust is the largest single collection on the website with 12,567 paintings. However, approximately half of the collections on the site have ten or fewer paintings. The vast majority of the collection has never been photographed before.

To see and tag Your Paintings and find out more about visiting participating galleries, museums and public buildings in London, visit