National Army Museum oil painting collection goes online at Your Paintings

By Richard Moss | 27 September 2012
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a painting of a battle scene with red coated British soldiers in pith helmets making a last stand against thousands of Zulu warriors
Charles Edwin Fripp, The Battle of Isandlwana, 22 January 1879© NAM
Outside the collection of the Imperial War Museum, the 643 oil paintings held by the National Army Museum in London represent one of the best - and certainly the most important - holdings of British military themed art in the UK.

It’s a resource that the museum understands and utilises well; their permanent art gallery displays a highlights collection ranging from Charles Edwin Fripp’s rousing painting of the British Army's crushing defeat at The Battle of Islawanda during the Zulu Wars to a bust of Florence Nightingale.

But now the National Army Museum is casting the net further by sharing these valuable resources with a wider online audience via the Your Paintings website.

The ambitious digital collaboration between the Public Catalogue Foundation and the BBC has been photographing all of the 200,000 publicly owned oil paintings held in museums, institutions, town halls and universities across the country and publishing them on the Your Paintings Website.

So far 180,000 paintings have been uploaded, with the final 20,000 estimated to be completed and available to view online by Christmas 2012.  

Now the public are being encouraged to interact with this vast resource by using a tagging tool which allows them to classify and tag the paintings by subject and theme.

Curators from the museum have selected and interpreted their ten favourite paintings to help with the process. They include Fripp’s famous painting, as well as some surprising contemporary pieces reflecting the modern army’s role in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan.

Jenny Spencer-Smith, the Collections Content Manager, describes the process of bringing the collection online as “making these works of art accessible to new and diverse audiences”.

“By explaining their stories, we are ensuring that these remain relevant to future generations," she adds.

More pictures:

a painting of soldiers carrying duckboards across a desolate battlefield at night
Richard Tennant Cooper, The Working Party, c1917© NAM

a painting of soldiers attacking a cluster of buildings beneath a mountain at night
Douglas Farthing, Pump House Contact, East Kabul’, 2002© NAM

a formal paintingn of red coated soldiers greetinga Mughal era Indian nobles attended by warrirors and Elelphants
Robert Home, The Reception of the Mysorean Hostage Princes by Marquis Cornwallis, 26 February 1792© NAM

a vibrant painting of a soldier in green combat gear and riot visor standing next to a wall of graffitti
Ralph Lillford, Graffiti Wall, Belfast (1973)© NAM

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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