Copyright is never simple and this site raises some tricky issues. This is not the place to go into the UK (and it is predominantly UK) Copyright Acts of the twentieth century.
As a general principle copyright protection became longer during the twentieth century and some items that fell out of copyright may even have come back in, depending on the date of the work and the death date of the artist. In addition the presumption as to whether the copyright belonged to the sitter or the painter has changed and indeed it is possible for the copyright of the painting to belong to neither the descendants of the sitter or of the painter.
Some contentious parts of the Digital Economy Bill were lost in April 2010 when it went through the House of Commons as part of the ‘wash up’ session before the 6 May General Election. The United States also tried and failed, in 2006 and again 2008, to pass orphan works legislation, but meanwhile they remain in some form of copyright limbo.
Given that I don't know who owns most of the portraits here it has not been possible to ask for permission to reproduce them where, that is, I have an image. I have used my best endeavours to trace rights holders and can only apologise for any infringements and, if requested, will naturally remove images.
I do, however, claim copyright in the arrangement of the contents of the site and in the first instance any copyright enquiry should be sent via the contact page.
My aim is to create a secure off-line database of privately-held portraits so that future students of the genre can be put in contact with owners, without necessarily revealing the owners' details. You may also be able to find copyright details here.