I have often lamented the poor classification methods used by those who look after collections of paintings. They focus on the name of the painter, the date and the school to which he or she belonged, rather than on the really important facts: whether or not a painting shows a steamer, barge, canal or other object of industrial heritage interest. Thus, as I pointed out here, you get titles like “View looking down on a jetty and boats on a lake with a church in the distance” that ignore the most important aspect: that the pic shows a steamer on Lough Erne.
The other problem is that the paintings are in galleries scattered hither and yon, which means that a serious search for steamers, barges and canals would require hours of driving followed by hours of rummaging through archives, even though each pic would require only a few seconds’ attention to determine whether or not it is worthy of notice. The cost-benefit ratio is all wrong, but the use of technology can solve the problem.
I was delighted therefore to learn that, in HM Realm, the BBC and the Public Catalogue Foundation have put online tagged images of [almost] all the 200,000+ oil paintings in public ownership in the UK at the Your Paintings site. The collection is searchable: the search will return artists, painting titles and tags. And you can help by adding tags, if you have more information about a painting.
There is not much of Irish waterways interest, which is scarcely surprising, but there is an interesting illustration of the use of a pole on the Lagan [I’d welcome comment on what’s happening in that pic] and the barge at Edenderry. There is also some material for steam men.
It would be nice if Irish galleries would now do the same. The cost could be met by selling off the originals, which would no longer be necessary, and closing the galleries, at a saving to the public purse.