Your pictures – no, really

Landscape with arched gateway, by Adam Pynacker (c. 1620-1673), at Penrhyn Castle. ©NTPL/National Museums and Galleries of Wales

The BBC and the Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF) have teamed up to make all the oil paintings in Britain’s public collections available online. The PCF has already been working for several years to record and produce catalogues of all paintings in public ownership, and the fruits of that work are now also being made accessible through a BBC website called Your Paintings.

Moonlit landscape, by Aert van der Neer (1603/4-1677), at Penrhyn Castle. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The National Trust is collaborating with the PCF to include all its paintings in the survey. The first National Trust picture collection available through Your Paintings is Penrhyn Castle, in Gwynedd (which can be found by searching for ‘National Trust’ on the Your Paintings site).

Penrhyn slate quarry, by Henry Hawkins (1822-1880), at Penrhyn Castle. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by HM Government and allocated to the National Trust, 1951. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Shown side by side as thumbnails, the images throw up unexpected insights. Seeing the array of Dutch old master paintings collected by the Douglas-Pennants of Penrhyn, you suddenly understand why they would choose to commission a painting of their own slate quarry (one of the sources of their wealth) in the ‘picturesque’ style of a Ruisdael, a Pynacker or a Van der Neer.

2 Responses to “Your pictures – no, really”

  1. Andrew Says:

    What is the copyright status of these images?

    Most of the paintings are from the 19th century or earlier, and the artist will have been dead for a considerable period. And they are owned by the public (although in the care of the NT, museums, etc). But the “Your Paintings” website seems to include claims of copyright.

    It is not unusal for people to claim copyright where is does not exist (sometimes called “copyfraud”).

    Why can’t they be used freely?

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Andrew, as far as I understand it, the works of art themselves are not in copyright if, as you indicate, the original maker has been dead for more than 70 years. Recent photographs of those works of art, however, are in copyright, the holders of that copyright being the photographers and possibly the institution or company that commissioned the photographs. The copyright protects the rights of the photographers to their professional body of work, and may also protect the investment made by whoever commissioned that work.

    The National Trust is generally happy for low-resolution versions of images copyrighted by us to be used by third parties for reference, research, news and publicity purposes, as long as they are properly credited. However, the use of high-res images and the commercial use of images has to be requested from our photo library, and those uses mostly do incur a fee (NTPL).

    So we are trying to strike a balance. I have noticed that occasionally images from this blog get copied onto Tumblr image blogs, but they do tend to list the correct credits and links back to the source, adding to the beneficial ‘network’ function that blogs can have.

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