Archive Group AG 13 - Archives of Colour Reproductions of Paintings

Identity area

Reference code



Archives of Colour Reproductions of Paintings


  • 1949 - 1979 (Creation)

Level of description

Archive Group

Extent and medium

Circa 5000 colour reproductions of paintings and 5 boxes of documents about the project, card index of reproductions and original photos for the catalogues

Context area


Archival history

The UNESCO Archives received part of the UNESCO collection of colour reproduction of paintings from the Culture Sector and keeps them in the archives. Since the collection was not complete when transferred to the archives and had to suffer further losses over the time, only about 50% of the original collection is still kept in the archives.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

This Archive Group refers to a project of the Culture Sector from 1949 to ca. 1979. Since 1949, UNESCO, with the assistance of its National Commissions, made contact with publishers of reproductions of famous paintings throughout the world. The reproductions were examined and the publishers were then listed as sources for accurate reproductions of masterpieces of world art. The reproductions could then be purchased and disseminated, rendering the masterpieces accessible to the world. UNESCO then published several catalogues and maintained a collection (called "Archives of Colour Reproductions of Paintings") which contained all reproductions received as samples.
The idea of the UNESCO project was to give the vast majority of people who never or only occasionally have the chance to see the originals of great paintings access to them by substituting these art works with high-quality colour reproductions.
With the aim of making the best colour reproductions more easily available to teachers, students and the general art-interested public, UNESCO, over a period of 30 years, produced catalogues listing by the end more than 15,000 paintings of which high-quality reproductions exist and could be obtained. The volumes were intended not only to bring art into homes and schools but also to encourage the increased production of colour prints and the improvement of reproduction standards and methods.
At UNESCO Headquarters complete sets of the prints were kept so that visitors would have been able to see the reproductions themselves.
The main criteria by which the prints have been chosen were the fidelity of the reproduction, the significance of the artist, and the importance of the original painting. The selection had been done by two committees of experts set up in agreement with the International Council of Museums that decided which reproductions should be included in UNESCO’s catalogue and collection.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


No further accruals

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

The reproductions are not accessible for the public but documents, catalogues, photos and card index can be consulted.

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

AG 13/1: Catalogue of reproductions of paintings prior to 1860, 10th ed. Paris, 1978 (CUA/18/21)

AG 13/2: Catalogue of reproductions of paintings 1860-1979, 11th ed. Paris 1981 (CUA/18/22)

AG 13/3: Card index of pictures included in the catalogues

There are several catalogues published earlier than these two, but all reproductions listed in those are also included in the later versions.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Part of the collection, the catalogues, documents about the project, card index of reproductions and original photos are kept by the UNESCO archives.
All catalogues of reproductions are also available via the UNESCO Archives.

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

There are a number of correspondence files about the project available in the archives (AG 8 - Secretariat Records, Central Registry Collection), to be found under the code 7 A 334.

Related descriptions

Publication note

Great paintings for everyone, in: The UNESCO Courier. VI, 7, Paris, Unesco, 1953. p. 12-13, illus.

Notes area

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Description control area

Description identifier

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Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Created by Julia Pohle, July 2009. Revised AWT 9 March 2010.




Accession area

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