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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Web puts art in the spotlight
by Christine Phillips
BBC News Online

A Souvenir of Velazquez, 1868 by John Millais. Courtesy of the Royal Academy
A Souvenir of Velazquez was painted in 1868 by John Millais
The Royal Academy and 10 leading British art schools are the latest institutions to put their art collections online.

They are embarking on a project to help conserve works while simultaneously making them accessible to all.

In time, all of the academy's paintings, sculptures and drawings - in excess of 18,000 - will be available as digital pictures on the net, including works by Thomas Gainsborough, John William Waterhouse, and Stanley Spencer.

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It is a welcome addition to the academy's website, helping to illustrate features like the Artist of the Month.

June's focus, for example, is on the 19th Century Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais, the academy's youngest student.

Simplified Faces State II by David Hockney.  Courtesy of David Hockney and www.fineart.ac.uk
Simplified Faces State II by David Hockney appears on Fine Art
At the same time a new fine art collection is now online, launched in collaboration with some of the UK's finest teaching institutions.

The website Fine Art has made available work from UK universities by staff and students, past and present.

There are about 200 digital images by more than 100 artists and accompanying notes, drawing from the mid-19th Century to the present day.

The site offers clear and simple searches either by artist, location or period making it very user-friendly.

It is however a case of content over style with somewhat utilitarian designs and pages of grey text.

Women's contribution

While this may not bother a scholar it is slightly disappointing for an arts website to pay such little heed to the medium.

There is helpful educational context given to well-known British names like Tracey Emin, Bridget Riley and David Hockney - both to their work and its influence on art teaching.

It also begins to document the huge and often under-represented contribution made to fine art in the 19th and 20th centuries by women in the UK.

What do you think of these sites? Are they user-friendly? Do they offer as many images as you hoped?

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