View 250,000 British Paintings & Sculptures Free Online

A lit­tle over four years ago, dis­crim­i­na­to­ry and arbi­trar­i­ly con­fus­ing trav­el bans descend­ed on the U.S., tear­ing refugee fam­i­lies apart and leav­ing thou­sands in diplo­mat­ic lim­bo. This seemed night­mar­ish enough at the time. But it took a viral pan­dem­ic to bring trav­el bans and restric­tions down on the entire world, more or less, with coun­tries appear­ing on bul­letins that vague­ly look like lists of ene­mies on gov­ern­ing bod­ies’ web­sites, includ­ing the CDC’s.

Like­wise, almost all 27 coun­tries that com­prise the Euro­pean Union are cur­rent­ly dis­al­low­ing U.S. trav­el­ers, with the excep­tion of Croa­t­ia,” Mary Claire Pat­ton reports. The UK has also kept its ban on U.S. cit­i­zens in place. All this is to say, to fel­low cit­i­zens and res­i­dents of any gen­der, that the days of traips­ing around the world for Insta­gram impres­sions, or sav­ing and scrap­ing for that vaca­tion hon­ey­moon, or mak­ing even more impor­tant jour­neys, may be on hold indef­i­nite­ly.

For­tu­nate­ly, art gal­leries world­wide have been prepar­ing their col­lec­tions for inde­pen­dent lives online, with ultra-high-res­o­lu­tion pho­tog­ra­phy; mate­ri­als that rarely appear on view in any form; and more con­text than vis­i­tors typ­i­cal­ly get on a guid­ed tour.

Would-be vis­i­tors keen on pub­lic art col­lec­tions will find their niche online at Art UK, a char­i­ty project that is dig­i­tiz­ing “more than 150,000 pub­licly owned sculp­tures in Great Britain by the end of 2020,” writes Men­tal Floss, includ­ing many sculp­tures liv­ing their lives out in pub­lic spaces.

Art UK seem to be lag­ging a bit behind on the sculp­ture posts, and they are light on the con­text, but a few big things have hap­pened since they made the announce­ment in Feb­ru­ary 2019. In any case, you will not have to trav­el to a Nando’s eatery in Har­low to see Rodin’s Eve, orig­i­nal­ly cre­at­ed for his Gates of Hell in Paris. (Not that one wouldn’t want to go to Har­low, which “also dis­plays works by acclaimed artists such as Hen­ry Moore, Elis­a­beth Frink, Bar­bara Hep­worth and Lynn Chad­wick,” Mark Brown points out at The Guardian.)

The over twen­ty-five thou­sand pub­lic UK sculp­tures doc­u­ment­ed in the data­base so far are already impres­sive enough. Oh, and did we men­tion that the foun­da­tion had already pre­vi­ous­ly dig­i­tized over two-hun­dred thou­sand oil paint­ings between 2003 and 2012? These are also all paint­ings owned by the UK pub­lic “from over 3,000 loca­tions,” Katey Good­win writes for Art UK. “This is the only project of its kind in the world to cre­ate a com­plete online cat­a­logue of every oil paint­ing in a nation­al col­lec­tion.”

These include the req­ui­site dot­ing and reveal­ing por­traits of lords, ladies, mer­chants, wor­thies, and bureau­crats. They also include bril­liant oil paint­ings like David Hep­her’s Night Flats, whose title and far­away lone­some­ness evoke Edward Hop­per. Fur­ther­more, not all por­traits of British wor­thies fit the stereo­type, as Col­in Cola­han’s 1933 arrest­ing like­ness of Eng­lish actress Marie Ney demon­strates.

You can read more about the process of bring­ing this work online in Goodwin’s essay, which also lists the nation­al orga­ni­za­tions and muse­ums from which the col­lec­tion draws. These are “locat­ed through­out Eng­land, Scot­land, Wales and North­ern Ire­land, and the crown depen­den­cies of the Isle of Man and the Chan­nel Islands.” Vis­it Art UK them­selves here to see their pho­to­graph­ic archive of pub­licly-owned paint­ing, sculp­ture, and oth­er visu­al media in the UK—now pub­licly avail­able online around the world to peo­ple indef­i­nite­ly banned from vis­it­ing the art in per­son.

For a wealth of oth­er free art, vis­it this page on our site: Vis­it 2+ Mil­lion Free Works of Art from 20 World-Class Muse­ums Free Online.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load 569 Free Art Books from The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art

The Tate Dig­i­tizes 70,000 Works of Art: Pho­tos, Sketch­books, Let­ters & More

The British Muse­um Puts 1.9 Mil­lion Works of Art Online

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.