Press Release: Roland Art Film Collection Now Online


Making its debut at BETT 2009 is The Roland Collection ( ), the world’s largest independent library of films on art and literature, which is now offering almost 500 downloadable films to British schools, colleges, universities and education authorities, together with museums, libraries and galleries.

For around 45 years, the founder and curator of the Roland Collection, Anthony Roland (himself a successful film director and dealer in fine arts), has been painstakingly assembling this archive of films covering world art – from the cave artists at the dawn of human culture to the painters, sculptors and architects of the late 20th century and beyond – as well as modern and contemporary authors, playwrights and poets.

The archive contains around 500 titles from all over the world, with running times between eight and 90 minutes, and along the way has rediscovered and preserved a number of rare mid – late 20th century films which would otherwise have been lost, besides maintaining hundreds of acclaimed winners of international film awards.

As part of a major digitising programme (a considerable undertaking for a private collection), most of the films are now available online at for immediate download by students and educators, with many more to come.

Although it’s already treasured in national libraries and museums across the USA and mainland Europe, The Roland Collection is in fact a British institution, with the archive held in rural East Sussex, and its curator anticipates a high level of interest from British educational institutions and authorities; typically, these might buy an annual license to make the collection freely available to their students and teachers for educational use. Films can then be watched individually or by a class, or can be studied in great detail – sequence by sequence or even frame by frame – for meticulous research.

Anthony Roland says: “It’s an accident of history that this fabulous treasure is well known in the USA but has yet to have an impact on education in Britain. Where else can students of art, history, architecture and modern literature go to find such a wide range of knowledge and insight, all online and instantly available?”

With narrators including such luminaries as Dame Judi Dench, Sir Anthony Quayle, Glenda Jackson, Magnus Magnusson, Ricardo Montalban and Sir Peter Ustinov – and the less expected names of Max Ernst, Eugene Ionesco and Kenneth (Lord) Clark, the 500 films are made by 230 directors from 25 countries. They range from narrative documentaries and studies to wordless visual explorations – many themselves works of art – and cover art and architecture from pre-history and the early civilisations to the Renaissance, the Impressionists, Art Nouveau, Surrealism, Modernism, Pop Art and considerably more; with sections devoted to individuals such as Rembrandt and Picasso. Some films analyse whole movements in art – for example, Dadaism or Bauhaus – while others might explore an individual canvas or sculpture in depth.

The collection also explores the lives and writing of dozens of twentieth century literary figures and philosophers from across the world, including a ‘Writers Talk’ series in which many of the century’s most famous English-speaking novelists, playwrights and poets discuss their work on camera.

Anthony Roland concludes: “There is no other collection like this in the world. Yet for far less than the price of a textbook per person, institutions can put the entire collection on the screens of their students and teachers.”

Individual films can be downloaded for less than GBP £1.50 and annual institutional licenses cost from just a few pence per user. Many films are available with multilingual soundtracks.

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