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The launch of the first volume in a series of catalogues that will map the nation’s wealth of oils took place at the Wallace Collection last week, where National Gallery Director Charles Saumarez Smith was just one of several leading figures in the art establishment to hail the project.

Oil Paintings in Public Ownership in West Yorkshire: Leeds may sound a fairly obscure title, but it reveals an exceptional range of works, numbering 2116 in 12 collections. At 300 pages long and with more than 2100 colour illustrations, the hardback catalogue is priced at £35, while the softback is £15.

They will be sold in gallery shops as well as being offered for sale by mail order.

A catalogue has already been produced for Kent and others, for West Sussex, East Sussex, Suffolk and Norfolk are expected to follow by the end of the year.

An Internet version will follow, with hopes of further catalogues covering all 47 counties being included later.

The project is being funded by local private sponsors and donors together with local authorities.