ART lovers can now view more than 1,800 paintings from museums and public buildings across the county in an online gallery.
Forty-eight paintings from the Epping Forest District Museum are among about 172,000 publicly-owned works from across the UK photographed and uploaded onto the internet as part of national project.
Tony O'Connor, director of the museum in Sun Street, Waltham Abbey, said the scheme was already drawing unprecedented attention to its collection.
He said: "So many people who even live and work locally aren't aware of the museum that's on their doorstep.
"Since the paintings have been uploaded we have had a number of enquiries, so it's being used and it's being used not just locally but all over the world.
"We now get enquiries in from South America."
The majority of the museum's paintings illustrate local scenes, events and residents or are by artists with ties to the area.
Among the works now online is The Garden, Epping by Lucien Pissarro - an 1895 depiction of the garden of the view from the French impressionist's house in Hemnall Street - and Henry
Pierce Bone’s 1815 painting of the Burial of King Harold at Waltham Abbey.
Mr O'Connor said he hoped the database would attract more visitors, rather than acting as a substitute to the museum.
"I think there's something about seeing the real thing and being able to see it within the context of a gallery which is very unique," he said.
The project is part of the Your Paintings scheme, led by the BBC and Public Catalogue Foundation, which aims to photograph all 200,000 publicly-owned oil paintings in the UK.
The collection also includes 15 paintings from the North Weald Airfield Museum and 101 works from Essex County Council’s “core collection” – pieces donated or bequeathed to the authority worth
millions of pounds.
Among the treasures now on show is a view of Hampstead Heath by John Constable, loaned to Essex Record Office in 1898.
Sally Macpherson, chairman of the Epping Arts Society, welcomed the move toward making the council’s collection more visible.
She said: "I think it's a wonderful idea because there must be a vast number of paintings that people never get to see because they aren't open to the public.
"I don't think people realise that there are so many paintings in obscure places.”
More than half of the authority’s 206 works of art – including photographs and prints - have not been uploaded. Those hanging in secure areas of council buildings can be seen only by
“What would be nice is if the council catalogued all these paintings and made people aware of them,” added Mrs Macpherson. "The county council could maybe have open days where they could be
- To view the online collection, visit www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings.
- Anyone interested in making an appointment to view the county council’s collection should call 01245 435517.
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