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St Paul's oil paintings join BBC online catalogue

A collection of oil paintings in the Collections of St Paul's Cathedral are now available for everyone to view online as part of a collaborative art project.

Just fewer than one hundred works of art owned by the Cathedral Corporation have joined thousands of others from across Britain on the BBC Your Paintings website. This project involving the Public Catalogues Foundation, the BBC and art owning organisations aims to make the nation’s oil paintings accessible to as many people as possible through an online database.


St Paul’s has an extraordinary and eclectic range of oil paintings many of which have never been on public display before. Highlights include: 

  • The internationally significant, pre-Raphaelite masterpiece The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt; which was given to the cathedral by Charles Booth in 1908 and which inspires millions around the globe.
  • A notable group of portraits of former Deans and Canons that enable us to put faces to the personalities behind the continuity of the Cathedral’s mission and the many accomplishments and events in the history of St Paul’s.
  • Two major works by GF Watts, one of the giants of nineteenth century British art, which explore such fundamental concepts as Time, Death and Judgement through richly-daubed, allegorical figures.
  • Sir James Thornhill’s scenes from the life of St Paul, in which the prolific English artist brings to life the dramatic, horse-back conversion of Saul and key moments from his subsequent apostolic adventures.
  • Canvases by artists such as, Hugh Stannus and W E F Britten who, although less well known, made a significant contribution to the 'completion of the decoration' of St Paul’s in the nineteenth-century.

Over the summer of 2013 the Cathedral Collections Department facilitated professional photography for the website and supplied the Public Catalogues Foundation with details of the artists and dates of the paintings.

The project saw the digitisation of as many of St Paul’s oil paintings as was possible - even those in need of conservation work to return them to their former glory. The set will be completed with the return of the Cathedral’s Frederic Leighton and Edward Poynter cartoons to the Cathedral in 2014.

See more about the Cathedral Collections and the Collections Department.