National Inventory of Continental European Paintings


'La Falaise à Fécamp' by Claude Monet, 1881, Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum

NICE Paintings is the first phase of a unique on-line inventory of all the 22,000 pre-1900 Continental European oil paintings in the UK's public collections. The database has been created by the National Inventory Research Project (NIRP), based at the University of Glasgow. It contains detailed records, and an increasing number of digital images, of nearly 8,000 paintings, principally in smaller regional collections. Additional records and images are being added as further funding becomes available.

The aims of the project are:

Non-British paintings are sometimes a comparatively neglected aspect of a museum's collections and deserve to be better known. Researching these paintings in the UK's smaller regional collections has therefore been the priority and focus of NIRP's activities so far.

The Project

The National Inventory Research Project is the outcome of the work of a committee of museum curators. Representing national and local museums across the UK and led by the National Gallery, London, the project's steering committee wished to tackle two issues: the recent decline in collection research within museums, recognised by publications such as Anne Gunn's Lifting the Veil: Research and Scholarship in UK Museums and Universities (Museum and Galleries Commission, 2000) and Renaissance in the Regions: a new vision for England's museums (Museums Libraries and Archives Council, 2001); and the lack of easily accessible information about what is in museum collections. Few museums have complete up-to-date catalogues of their picture collections.

'The Holy Family', studio of Pietroda Cortona, c.1650-1700, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Initial funding for the project was generously provided by the National Gallery, London. Substantial grants have been received from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Getty Foundation and the Kress Foundation. Additional research has been carried out through the Neil MacGregor Scholarships funded by the National Gallery Trust and by Pilgrim Trust research grants awarded to selected museums. The Pilgrim Trust also assisted with funding image research.

NIRP is a partnership between the History of Art departments at Birkbeck, University of London, and the University of Glasgow, and the National Gallery, London. The project has employed some 25 researchers who have worked with curators in around 200 museums and other public collections across the UK. Without the support and co-operation of the museum sector the project would not have been possible. We believe it could be a model for future collaborations between national museums, regional museums and the academic world.

NIRP is also working closely with the Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF) a registered charity that is publishing illustrated regional catalogues of every oil painting in public ownership in the UK. The PCF is kindly allowing NIRP to make use of the digital images it has made; NIRP will be providing the PCF with up-to-date information on the pictures it has researched.

The Database

NICE Paintings is currently searchable on VADS by:

The database contains detailed catalogue information on 8,000 pictures, using established catalogue terms. You can search the whole database for words and names such as 'Spanish', 'portrait' or 'Monet', or for words and names in particular data fields such as artist, title, acquisition, description etc.

'Still Life with Asparagus, Artichokes, Lemons and Cherries', attributed to Blasde Ledesma, c.1602-1614, Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle

Click here for full details of the database structure and further advice on how to make best use of the database.

Every attempt has been made to provide accurate and useful information. If you can provide aditional information or wish to make further enquiries please contact the respective museum. For a list of participating museums and collections click here for institutions. You can contact museums via these links.

We hope to make the database available through additional portals in due course.


We recognise how important images are to the usefulness of the NICE Paintings database. We are particularly grateful to the Public Catalogue Foundation for the many images that it has made available for the database and to the Bridgeman Art Library, which holds many digital images on behalf of museums and has allowed us to use them. Other images have been generously provided by the collections themselves or were taken by project researchers during the course of their work. We are aware that many of these are not of professional quality. Many museums are currently digitising and rephotographing their collections, but in the meantime we feel that any image is better than none. Images will be improved and replaced as funding and time allows.

Project Steering Committee
Dr Susan Foister, Director of Collections, National Gallery, London (Chair)
Prof. Francis Ames-Lewis, Emeritus Professor of the History of Renaissance Art, Birkbeck, University of London
Christopher Baker, Chief Curator, National Gallery of Scotland
Xanthe Brooke, Curator of European Art, The Walker, Liverpool
Adrian Jenkins, Director, The Bowes Museum
Alastair Laing, Advisor on Pictures and Sculpture, National Trust
Andrew Moore, Keeper of Art and Senior Curator, Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service
Prof. Nick Pearce, Department of History of Art, University of Glasgow
Anne Stewart, Curator of Fine Art, Ulster Museum, Belfast
Sheena Stoddard, Curator, Fine Art, Bristol's City Museum and Art Gallery
Dr Ann Sumner, Director, Barber Institute, University of Birmingham
Prof. Alison Yarrington, Head of Department, Dept of History Of Art, University of Glasgow
Project Director
Andrew Greg
Data Editing Manager
Dr Joanna Meacock
Editor and Image Researcher
Dr Patricia Smyth
NIRP Research Assistants
Malcolm Barclay; Bryony Bartlett-Rawlings; Dr Mercedes Cerón; Dr Anne L. Cowe; Bryony Dawkes; Dr Claudia Heide; Dr Erma Hermens; Dr Marie Hopewell-Curie; Dr Lisa Howard; Richard Johns; Dr Madeleine Korn; Dr Heiner Krellig; Dr Katia Mai; Francesco Nevola; Dr Phillipa Plock; Rachel Sloan; Alastair Smith; Dr Angela Smith; Dr Patricia Smyth; Dr Susan Steer; Dr Ruth Stewart; David Taylor; Dr Georgia Toutziari; Elizabeth van der Beugel; Suzanne Veldink
Neil MacGregor Scholars
Dr Madeleine Korn: Dr Susan Steer: Malcolm Barclay; Dr Rebecca Virag; Dr Anne L. Cowe; Irene Galandra; Lenia Kouneni; Pablo Pérez d'Ors: Timothy Williams; Laura North
Pilgrim Trust Grant researchers
Rosie Broadley; Dr Howard Coutts; Bryony Dawkes; Richard Green; Dr Sophie Oosterwijk; Robert Wenley; Amina Wright
Dr Evelyn Silber; Dr Claire Pace; Dr Susan Steer, Dr Patricia Smyth; Stephanie Pickering; and project staff
Database designers
Dr Hazel Gardiner; Graham Peters
Additional thanks and acknowledgements are due to
Prof. William Vaughan; Mick Eadie and Amy Robinson (Visual Arts Data Service); Andy Ellis (Public Catalogue Foundation); Adrian Gibbs (Bridgeman Art Library); SCRAN (Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network); Clare Hewitt; Stephanie Prior; Katherine O'Neill; Glasgow University student volunteers: Rachel Grew, Magda Ketterer, Catriona McAra, Brenda McCormick, Keith Robinson, Charlene Tinney, and Katie Worthing; and all the curators and other museum staff without whose support, co-operation and patience this project would not have been possible.


Andrew Greg
Project Director
National Inventory Research Project
Department of History of Art
University of Glasgow
7 University Gardens

Tel: +44 (0)141 330 8519
Fax: +44 (0)141 330 3513

Image Credits

University of Glasgow Birkbeck College, University of London National Gallery, London
Getty Foundation Arts and Humanities Research Council Kress Foundation



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