Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery launches pixel perfect Pre-Raphaelite site

By Culture24 Staff | 26 June 2009
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painting of a girl

(Above) Zooming in on the The Blind Girl, John Everett Millais. Picture courtesy Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has launched a cutting-edge online resource for studying the art of the Pre-Raphaelites, offering access to 2,000 fine and decorative pieces from their unrivalled collection.

The site uses Microsoft Silverlight technology, which has a Deep Zoom function allowing the viewer to see the intense colours, brush strokes and pencil etchings in high quality detail.

Visitors can now scrutinise the detail, for example, in John Everett Millais' Blind Girl (1856), including a somewhat inconspicuous note under the lady's shawl reading "Pity the Blind". Viewed on a computer screen, the addition takes centre stage.

a painting of two girls

The Blind Girl, John Everett Millais. Picture courtesy Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Funded with the help of the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), the project was led by Birmningham City Council, who hope the site will attract Pre-Raphaelite fans new and old.

"This is about bringing Birmingham's world class collection of Pre-Raphaelite art to a world-wide audience using the latest digital technology," said Councillor Martin Mullaney, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture. "It should increase the number of virtual visits to the Museum and Art Gallery and can only enhance the city's reputation internationally as a centre for culture."

a painting of a man and a woman in a boat

Last of England, Ford Maddox Brown. Picture courtesy Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Having taken almost two years of cataloguing and research to develop the site, the team at BMAG took a year to photograph all the paintings from the collection.

It features works from the founder members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Ford Maddox Brown and the Birmingham-born Edward Burne-Jones.

Works from the Second Phase of the movement also feature, with intricate pieces from the Dalziel Brothers, Joseph Swain, John Ruskin, William Morris and a number of women artists including Rosa Brett, Kate Bunce and Eleanor Fortesque-Brickdale.

a painting of a woman

Medea, Frederick Sandys. Picture courtesy Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

"The Pre-Raphaelite Online Resource is a major step forward in bringing Victorian art into the digital age," said Professor Stephen Wildman, Director of the Ruskin Library and Research Centre, Lancaster University.

"The images and information now available online will be of great use to scholars, while the teaching resources should fire the imagination and interest of schools everywhere, bringing the unsurpassed Birmingham collection the worldwide attention it deserves."

Further facilities are available to registered users, including a select and save function for favourite images, grouping images together and sharing collections with other users.

For more information or to browse the collection visit Pre-Raphaelite Online Resource website.

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