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Window on an unseen world of art

Dan Carrier takes a peek at an online gallery of artworks owned by us – the general public

05 January, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Inverness Street Market by Suzanne C Harris. (Copyright City of London Corporation)

THEY are spectacular pieces of art that you can see for free from the comfort of your home – and perhaps best of all, you own them.

The priceless pieces are the property of public bodies – and to enjoy them, all you have to do is go online to a website cataloguing more than 200,000 items by over 38,000 artists coming from 3,250 venues nationwide. is the brainchild of former diplomat Dr Fred Hohler. The story goes like this: he had visited Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum to enjoy its collection. He asked a curator for a catalogue but was told no such thing existed – prompting him to establish the Public Catalogue Foundation.

The Viaduct, Hampstead Heath by Louis Walter, c 1860

The majority of the pieces are not on display, and many had not been photographed until the Art UK team, formed in 2003, began doing so. The website includes an easy to use search engine which gives you the chance to trawl through the thousands online.

Many Camden pieces are included – owned by a variety of bodies, including the Town Hall’s Local Studies Archive, based at Holborn Library.

Some were donated to the council while others were inherited from the old Hampstead and St Pancras councils that amalgamated in 1965 to form Camden.

And other public bodies further afield have items relating to Camden, Islington and Westminster.

Geoffrey Fletcher: Welcome Home Ginger, Bayham Street, Camden, 1945. Photo: Bury Art Museum and Sculpture Centre

One, dating from 1975, is called In The Shadow of Bacton Tower and is by artist Paul Hedley.

Mr Hedley was living at the time in Gloucester Crescent, Camden Town. He told Review: “There was a painting competition organised by an advertising agency. I was living in a bedsit in the crescent then – it wasn’t all posh houses – and they wanted a picture that had anything to do with Camden.”

Mr Hedley had trained at the Maidstone School of Art and supplemented working as an artist with some teaching.

Paul Hedley’s In the Shadow of Bacton Tower

At the time, much of the housing in Gospel Oak was still Victorian back-to-back, two-up, two down homes and Lismore Circus had yet to be built. But Bacton Tower had been completed – so Mr Hedley went there with his sketch pad.

He said: “I wanted some interesting views so I thought I’d climb up there and do some drawings.”

Another dates from 1945, is by 20th century painter Geoffrey Fletcher. Currently held by the Bury Art Museum & Sculpture Centre, it features a window display put up in Bayham Street, Camden Town, to welcome home a demobbed hero.

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