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One of the things I absolutely love about the Art UK collection is the sheer number of works listed by 'unknown' artists. They vary from the downright quirky, through the clumsily appealing, via the proficient and all the way up to utterly breathtaking. I barely scratched the surface of all the anonymous artworks available to see but here are just a selection that I was really taken with.

Artists featured in this Curation: unknown artist
61 artworks

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Portrait of a Lady
Photo credit: Wedgwood Museum

This portrait is quite lovely. No idea who the subject or artist is. The whole mystery kind of adds to the appeal of the work as it does with all of these pieces.

Portrait of a Lady
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 41 x W 33 cm
Wedgwood Museum

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Abstract Black and White
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Glyndŵr University

This abstract work is fabulous. The 'white' of the title is anything but. I love the shifting translucence.

Abstract Black and White
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 122 x W 122 cm
Glyndŵr University

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Bathers*
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Hatton Gallery

There's a lovely simplicity to this scene of a group of bathers. Nice economical brushwork.

Bathers*
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 23 x W 33 cm
Hatton Gallery

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Saint Luke Painting the Virgin
Photo credit: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Always been a fain of paintings of people doing paintings. Meta. I didn't know St. Luke was a dauber.

Saint Luke Painting the Virgin c.1600
unknown artist
Tempera & gilt on oak panel
H 19.5 x W 11.5 cm
Paintings Collection

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The Lobster Smack, Canvey Island
Photo credit: Dutch Cottage Museum

Coming from Essex as I do, I like this simple landscape of The Smack at Canvey. There's a real sense of the low bleak minimalism of the Thames vista communicated by the artist.

The Lobster Smack, Canvey Island c.1900
unknown artist
Oil on panel
H 11 x W 14 cm
Dutch Cottage Museum

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Dots over Brown Wash then Green
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Kingston University: Art on Campus

A wonderfully minimal abstract here, but charming with it. I like the textures in that middle section.

Dots over Brown Wash then Green
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 109.5 x W 110 cm
Kingston University: Art on Campus

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Installation*
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Djanogly City Academy Nottingham

This mixed media installation with all of its right angles and metallic hues and negative space has a real urban industrial feel. But the interplay of light and depth gives it a kind of warmth.

Installation*
unknown artist
Oil on wood, cloth, metal & wire
H 250 x W 150 cm
Djanogly City Academy Nottingham

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Nurse at Work
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: West Cornwall Hospital

This illustrative work showing a (then) contemporary nurse working 'in the shadow' of another figure (who, having a lamp, we assume is Florence Nightingale) has a nice feel. bearing in mind the current global crisis, it's screaming for an update.

Nurse at Work
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 102 x W 81 cm
West Cornwall Hospital

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Joseph Houlton (1637–1720)
Photo credit: Frome Museum

I've actually chosen this piece less for the original painting, but more for how it looks covered in strips of masking tape.

Joseph Houlton (1637–1720) c.1710
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 76 x W 64 cm
Frome Museum

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Portrait of an Unidentified Gentleman
Photo credit: Nottingham Central Library

There's something about the greys and the eyes in this portrait that draws one in. A real weight and depth. Love to know who this dude was.

Portrait of an Unidentified Gentleman
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 61 x W 45.5 cm
Nottingham Central Library

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Billy Wood and Son 'Boxing Booth': Boxer Lee Savold
Photo credit: The Fairground Heritage Trust

This painting of a boxer is (I think) from an old fairground booth. There's a real charm to it.

Billy Wood and Son 'Boxing Booth': Boxer Lee Savold
unknown artist
Oil on board
H 288 x W 89.3 cm
The Fairground Heritage Trust

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Girl in a Pink Evening Gown at a Night Club
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Dacorum Heritage Trust Ltd

This picture of a woman in a nightclub has a real sense of joy about it, but that may be the lockdown talking.

Girl in a Pink Evening Gown at a Night Club
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 98 x W 64 cm
Dacorum Heritage Trust Ltd

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Harold Wilson (1916–1995), Baron Wilson of Rievaulx
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Bodleian Libraries

This painting of Harold Wilson looks more like it's a portrait of Mike Yarwood doing Harold Wilson. That is a reference which will miss a fair few of you. Google him.

Harold Wilson (1916–1995), Baron Wilson of Rievaulx
unknown artist
Oil on board
H 16.3 x W 13 cm
Bodleian Libraries

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Early Days of the Steam Train (Effects of the Railroad on the Brute Creation)
Photo credit: Beamish, The North of England Open Air Museum

I have no idea what is going on here but I love it. Skinny mad eyed horse busking.

Early Days of the Steam Train (Effects of the Railroad on the Brute Creation) 1838
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 28 x W 35.4 cm
Beamish, The North of England Open Air Museum

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John Wayne (1907–1979)*
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Djanogly City Academy Nottingham

The Duke versus pointillism. I think on balance, The Duke wins.

John Wayne (1907–1979)*
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 199.5 x W 199.5 cm
Djanogly City Academy Nottingham

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Landscape
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Birmingham City University

This abstract landscape has a Turner-esque feel. I love the tonal shifts.

Landscape late 20th C
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 181 x W 90 cm
Birmingham City University

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A Nude Female Sleeping
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Examination Schools, University of Oxford

This choppy, energetic figure painting is marvellous. Look at the brush strokes in the lighter areas. That dark block of colour at the top is really imposing.

A Nude Female Sleeping
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 76 x W 64 cm
Examination Schools, University of Oxford

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Portrait of a Young Man with Closed Eyes
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: King's College London

Brushwork here. Nice. You can really see the guy. Get a sense of him.

Portrait of a Young Man with Closed Eyes mid-20th C (?)
unknown artist
Oil on board
H 25.5 x W 20.5 cm
King's College London

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Broomfield Esso Station
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Glasgow Museums

I lived in London for six years. This painting reminds me of that time living in a city. The alluring glow of an all night petrol station.

Broomfield Esso Station 1980–1990s
unknown artist
Oil on paper
H 78.5 x W 128 cm
Glasgow Museums

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Brooklyn Bridge, New York, USA
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Harrington Aviation Museum

This is an almost cliched image of Manhattan from under the Brooklyn Bridge. And it's kinda clunky. But this is a painting I'd really like to know the story of.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York, USA early 1940s
unknown artist
Oil on wood
H 109 x W 228 cm
Harrington Aviation Museum

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Biddy Stonham
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Hastings Fishermen's Museum

Biddy Stonham was a legendary Hastings character, and well known as 'The Tub Man'.

Biddy Stonham 1960s
unknown artist
Oil on cardboard
H 39 x W 25 cm
Hastings Fishermen's Museum

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Saucepan
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Kingston University: Art on Campus

I love this painting, the blue of the pan and background, and the likelihood that the artist used their bare fingertips to apply the pigment. Wonder what's cooking.

Saucepan
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 45 x W 77 cm
Kingston University: Art on Campus

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Young Woman
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Darlington Borough Art Collection

I remain drawn to work which looks incomplete, but as an artist am unsure when a piece is finished. You stop when you stop, and I think this artist stopped at a perfect moment.

Young Woman 20th C
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 51 x W 41.5 cm
Darlington Borough Art Collection

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Members of 316 Armoured Troops Recovery Unit Attaching Tow Ropes to a Drowned Sherman Tank in the River Biferno near Camp Marino, Italy
Photo credit: The REME Museum

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Red Figure
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Birmingham City University

Hard to look at, but the ghostly visceral quality of this piece is really compelling. reminds me of Louise Bourgeois.

Red Figure late 20th C
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 243 x W 182.5 cm
Birmingham City University

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View of St Andrews from the South
Photo credit: University of St Andrews

When I drive to Dundee to University, I go through St Andrews, I see this view daily. It's beautifully evocative.

View of St Andrews from the South 1846
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 44.7 x W 67.5 cm
University of St Andrews

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A quirky, graphic print work here. Diagramatic elements, screened photographs and solid tones give it a brisk appeal.

Untitled
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 198 x W 168 cm
New College, University of Oxford

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People, Group
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Kingston University: Art on Campus

The space, light and colour here are marvellous. The casual figures just lounging in the distance are endearing.

People, Group
unknown artist
Oil on panel
H 61.5 x W 62 cm
Kingston University: Art on Campus

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'Coffee John'
Photo credit: Glasgow Museums

Coffee John looks like quite the chap. Smoking his pipe and hanging in front of his emporium.

'Coffee John' c.1900
unknown artist
Poster paint on cardboard
H 47.5 x W 58.1 cm
Glasgow Museums

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Fukuzawa Yukichi, Founder of Keio University, Japan
Photo credit: Colleges in the University of Cambridge

This portrait of Fukuzawa Yukichi in formal Japanese dress is absolutely stunning. The detail and background tones are fantastic.

Fukuzawa Yukichi, Founder of Keio University, Japan 1954
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 89 x W 59 cm
Paintings and Sculptures owned by Colleges in the University of Cambridge

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A Young Girl Kissing a Pillar
Photo credit: Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, Renfrewshire Council Collections

So. Many. Questions. Lovely painting, mind.

A Young Girl Kissing a Pillar
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 46 x W 28 cm
Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, Renfrewshire Council Collections

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Sheep with Setting Sun
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Reading Museum

A wonderful representation of evening light in this work.

Sheep with Setting Sun
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 41 x W 51 cm
Reading Museum

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Abstract with a Study of a Rock
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: University of Salford

Great use of line and tone in this work. The cross hatching in the rock is marvellous contrasted with the areas of painted texture. I like the confluence of geometry and geology.

Abstract with a Study of a Rock c.2000
unknown artist
Oil & mixed media on paper
H 131 x W 102 cm
University of Salford

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Man and Woman
Photo credit: Mansfield District Council

There's something I like about the damage done to this work. The brutality of the four diagonals. Strangely compelling.

Man and Woman
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 57.8 x W 43.6 cm
Mansfield District Council

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Dissection
Photo credit: The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

This cut open cadaver, presumably being studied by surgical students is strangely beautiful.

Dissection early 19th C
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 100.5 x W 67.6 cm
The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

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Mother and Son and Other Scenes*
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: University of Wales Trinity Saint David

The collage-like layout of this work is great. The sense that the lower horizontal and vertical central element fit together gets you looking at the work in a different way, it's like the artist is deliberately wrong footing the viewer.

Mother and Son and Other Scenes*
unknown artist
Acrylic on canvas
H 91.4 x W 101.6 cm
University of Wales Trinity Saint David

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John Rainolds (1549–1607), President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford and Co-Editor of the Authorised Version of the Bible
Photo credit: Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford

I like the hand holding the book. Also the formally mannered look that is so common in portraiture of this era.

John Rainolds (1549–1607), President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford and Co-Editor of the Authorised Version of the Bible
unknown artist
Oil on panel
H 44 x W 36 cm
Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford

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George Frederick Cooke as Gloucester in 'Richard III' by William Shakespeare
Photo credit: Theatre Royal, Bath

I was in a production at the Theatre Royal in Bath. Never saw this painting sadly. He looks quite the turn.

George Frederick Cooke as Gloucester in 'Richard III' by William Shakespeare c.1805
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 73 x W 61.5 cm
Theatre Royal, Bath

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Portrait of a Young (Spanish?) Woman
Photo credit: St Anne's College, University of Oxford

Again, the mystery and questions which surround this beautiful portrait are why I chose it initially, but the more you look, the lovelier it gets.

Portrait of a Young (Spanish?) Woman
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 29 x W 22 cm
St Anne's College, University of Oxford

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Miss Sarah Evans Davies, Mayor (1928–1930)
Photo credit: Welshpool Town Council

Sarah Evans Davies looks quite a no nonsense woman. Mayor of Welshpool in the late 1920s. Strong.

Miss Sarah Evans Davies, Mayor (1928–1930)
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 61 x W 50.8 cm
Welshpool Town Council

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The Last Fence, Jerry M. in the Grand National
Photo credit: National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art

This equestrian number makes me laugh, because there's little or no sense of movement conveyed. It looks for all the world like two horses and riders relaxing on the top of a hedge.

The Last Fence, Jerry M. in the Grand National
unknown artist
Oil on wood panel
H 71 x W 92 cm
National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art

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Houses
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Historic England Archive

The colours here. Simple but appealing.

Houses 20th C
unknown artist
Oil on hardboard
H 35.7 x W 46 cm
English Heritage, Brodsworth Hall

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Reclining Female Nude*
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Wellingborough Museum

I have always liked nudes which like this, simply look at the topography of the human form. so much going on, and the green swirl in the background, echoed tonally in the skin and in the curves of the torso.

Reclining Female Nude*
unknown artist
Oil on board
H 33 x W 42 cm
Wellingborough Museum

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Deck Board
Photo credit: Gloucester Waterways Museum

I really dig the stark geometry of the triangular motif contrasted with the organic forms of the (three) flowers.

Deck Board 1936/1937
unknown artist
Oil on wood
H 59.5 x W 155.5 cm
Gloucester Waterways Museum

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Deckchair in Blue*
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: University of Lincoln

Doig, Hockney, Sidney Nolan... I'm put in mind of so many artists by this beautiful little garden set piece. A moment in someone's day paused. Great warmth and space and despite the lack of a figure, real presence.

Deckchair in Blue*
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 182.5 x W 183 cm
University of Lincoln

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Alderman Daniel Leopold Lipson (1886–1963), MP, Mayor of Cheltenham (1935–1937)
Photo credit: The Cheltenham Trust and Cheltenham Borough Council

There's a comic strip vibe to this late 1930s portrait of Mayor Lipson. Looks like he could be driving a tank in The Victor.

Alderman Daniel Leopold Lipson (1886–1963), MP, Mayor of Cheltenham (1935–1937)
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 45 x W 34.9 cm
The Wilson

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Smokestacks and Houses on Green
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Kingston University: Art on Campus

Fantastically vibrant industrial landscape work here. The scarab aquamarines of the lower right area tessellated by the ochre rooftops dominated by the russet and grey chimneystacks. it's really beautiful.

Smokestacks and Houses on Green
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 138 x W 112 cm
Kingston University: Art on Campus

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Text and Blue Buildings on White
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Kingston University: Art on Campus

This is one of my favourites of this selection. The turquoise and grey Warhol-esque screen print style over looping script. A perfect evocation of urban claustrophobia.

Text and Blue Buildings on White
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 55 x W 55 cm
Kingston University: Art on Campus

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White Woman's Suit on Red
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Kingston University: Art on Campus

So it says oil on canvas, but is the canvas sewn? I really like the tonal minimalism and texture of what really looks like stitching.

White Woman's Suit on Red
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 67.5 x W 51 cm
Kingston University: Art on Campus

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Actaeon Attacked by Hounds
Photo credit: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

I love these dogs wiring into poor old Actaeon.

Actaeon Attacked by Hounds 1590–1610
unknown artist
Distemper on plaster
H 84.5 x W 118.7 cm
Furniture Collection

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Portrait of an Unknown Lady
Photo credit: Beamish, The North of England Open Air Museum

The compression of detail around the face, contrasted with the looser, lighter style for her clothing and background make this for me.

Portrait of an Unknown Lady 1825
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 76.4 x W 63.6 cm
Beamish, The North of England Open Air Museum

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Portrait of a Wounded Argyll Soldier
Photo credit: The Regimental Museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

Seems quite chirpy for a wounded fella. Great character work.

Portrait of a Wounded Argyll Soldier c.1910
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 95 x W 65 cm
The Regimental Museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

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Old Man Reading*
Photo credit: Hatton Gallery

The contrast here, and tones in the paper. I like how close he is holding the paper to his face.

Old Man Reading*
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 38 x W 48 cm
Hatton Gallery

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Billy Wood and Son 'Boxing Booth': Fight between Billy Wood and Arnold 'Kid' Shepherd
Photo credit: The Fairground Heritage Trust

Another lovely bit of 'folk art' from this old boxing booth. Check out the formally dressed ringside patrons.

Billy Wood and Son 'Boxing Booth': Fight between Billy Wood and Arnold 'Kid' Shepherd
unknown artist
Oil on board
H 263 x W 305 cm
The Fairground Heritage Trust

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Carving of a Face
Photo credit: Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life

Lovely carved stone head.

Carving of a Face
unknown artist
Beer stone
H 34.5 x W 27.5 x D 9.5 cm
Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life

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Boy's Head
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Glasgow Museums

Really simple beautiful bit of portraiture. The brushwork and mark making have an alluring looseness.

Boy's Head 19th C
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 40.6 x W 33 cm
Glasgow Museums

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Penrose Almshouses, Litchdon Street, Barnstaple, Devon
Photo credit: Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon

The Penrose Almshouses in Barnstaple are still a going concern.

Penrose Almshouses, Litchdon Street, Barnstaple, Devon
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 34.5 x W 52 cm
Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon

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Painting of the 'Sunk' Lightship from Abeam
Photo credit: Ramsgate Maritime Museum

I kind of dig that there was a lightship with 'Sunk' written on it in big letters. This is a beautifully messy bit of work. Looks like it was painted during a storm.

Painting of the 'Sunk' Lightship from Abeam early 20th C
unknown artist
Oil on wooden panel
H 13.5 x W 13.5 cm
Ramsgate Maritime Museum

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Queen Elizabeth II (b.1926)
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Knowsley Arts and Heritage Service

Here is, apparently, a painting of Keren Woodward from Bananarama dressed as the Queen in the 1950s.

Queen Elizabeth II (b.1926) 1950s
unknown artist
Oil on board
H 117 x W 86.5 cm
Knowsley Arts and Heritage Service

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Office Window
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Birmingham City University

This marvellous geometric painting of an office window has more than a whiff of Richard Hamilton about it. The dull (interior) is a brilliant focal point, set off by stark surrounding parallels and diagonals.

Office Window late 20th C
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 198 x W 300 cm
Birmingham City University

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Map of the Universe
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Kingston University: Art on Campus

This piece is absolutely marvellous. Funny, engaging, complex and minimal. I'd really love to see it in real life.

Map of the Universe
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 151 x W 139.5 cm
Kingston University: Art on Campus