Art in the archives

As well as looking after the archives for Essex, the ERO also looks after Essex County Council’s art collection.  Besides commissioning portraits of its chairmen ECC has never actively collected art, but has received a number of donations and bequests over the decades. Some of this art is displayed in ECC buildings, while other pieces are in storage at ERO.

Many pieces are viewable on the Art UK website, and if there is something in storage that you would like to see you can make a request for it to be made available – please contact us on ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk

The responsibility to care for ECC’s art is a relatively new one for us, and much work has been done over the last few years to organise and properly store these paintings. Now that this work is mostly complete, we can start to do more with the collection to make it available for all to use and enjoy.

Behind-the-scenes it has been a busy few months for the art collection. Staff have been trained to properly store and hang paintings, and to carry out condition checks. We have undertaken a project to digitise many of the paintings, which means we can now make images of even more of them available online. We are also in the process of hanging more paintings in public spaces in the ERO, and will shortly be launching a new page on our website as a hub for information about the collection.

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Performing a condition inspection of an oil painting

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Digitising a portrait of Barbara Villiers from the studio of Sir Peter Lely. Barbara was a mistress of Charles II – more on this painting in a future blog post

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Digitising a portrait of Barbara Villiers

We have been fortunate in this work to have the assistance of Marta Jimenez, an Art History graduate from the University of Essex who has been with us on an internship supported by the University as part of their Essex Interns scheme. As part of her work here Marta has been researching the stories behind some of the paintings, examining their subject matter and visual and artistic interpretation, and putting them into their historical context. As part of her work she has uploaded images of several paintings to our Flickr page and we will be publishing the results of some of her work here on the blog over the coming months.

More paintings have been hung in public spaces in ERO, with more to follow. Each year we offer public tours of the art collection, and groups can also book tours – just contact us on ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk

We have previously shared one of the highlights of our collection – a family portrait by Pompeo Batoni, here – and we will continue to share more highlights from the collection here on the ERO blog, so do check back in the future.

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Paintings recently hung on the ground floor of ERO, including the portrait of Barbara Villiers shown above in our Digitisation Studio

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