Looking for Good Art
Part 1: Web Resources
and Image Databases
by David Mattison
Access Archivist, British Columbia Archives,
Royal BC Museum Corporation
2] • [Part
Art images on the Web represent one of the first and
last frontiers in terms of pools of knowledge: millions
of historic art images served and more to come. Guides
to art resources are legion. Almost every university
and college that teaches art or art history seems to
devote some portion of its faculty or departmental
Web site to art resources on the Web. Academic libraries,
especially those connected to art galleries or art
museums, often maintain subject guides to art and art
history. Projects initiated by art librarian members
of the Visual Resources Association (VRA) [http://www.vraweb.org],
the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS)
and ARLIS organizations around the world have implemented
comprised of cataloged artwork accompanied by a digital
image. Both the VRA and ARLIS/NA maintain sites describing
members' online image databases [http://www.vraweb.org/memberwebsites.htm] [http://www.chatham.edu/users/staff/dnolting/images.html].
In cooperation with the IFLA Section of Art Libraries,
ARLIS/NA and other art library organizations help establish
and maintain the International Directory of Art
The directory, however, specifically omits "slide,
photograph, and other exclusively visual resource collections."
Drawing upon networking technology, newer standards
such as OAI (Open Archives Initiative) and specialized
metadata vocabularies and rules developed by or with
the support of the Getty Research Institute, the Web
universe of digital art resources shows no sign of
slowing down or peaking. In late May 2004, for example, Visual
Collections: Images of Art, History and Culture [http://www.davidrumsey.com/collections/] from David Rumsey and Cartography Associates was unveiled.
Many countries struggle with copyright issues when
it comes to displaying art reproductions on the Web.
For example, the Swiss site, Arte24 [http://www.arte24.ch],
notes," The images of art and cultural objects from
Swiss museums are not available at the moment due to
copyright problems." Academic institutions attempting
to comply with the complexities of copyright law take
a variety of approaches to the display of digitized
art images, ranging from campus-only or proxy server
access by authorized faculty, staff, and students to
full public access. Some academic museums and galleries
provide thumbnail catalogs for general public access,
following an approach taken by the AMICO Consortium.
Cultural institutions throughout the world commonly
use the practice of digital watermarking of images.
For current information on art image copyright, mainly
from a U.S. perspective, see Copyright & Art
Issues [http://uoregon.edu/~csundt/copyweb/], compiled
by Christine L. Sundt, visual resources curator, University
of Oregon. You can find other perspectives and links
on copyright and art images through the VRA Intellectual
Property Rights Committee [http://www.arthist.umn.edu/slides/IPR] and IFLANET's (International Federation of Library
Associations and Institutions) Information Policy:
Copyright and Intellectual Property [http://www.ifla.org/II/cpyright.htm].
My limited exploration of art image databases did
not include some of the catalog raisonné and
art census projects, undoubtedly significant to art
historians, such as the subscription-based and Internet-accessible Census
of Antique Works of Art and Architecture Known to the
I will focus on publicly available, though not necessarily
always authoritative, online art image sites. I passed
up standard, subscription-based reference works such
as the Grove Art Online (based on the 34-volume Dictionary
of Art; Oxford University Press, 1996) [http://www.groveart.com] and Princeton University's Index of Christian Art [http://ica.princeton.edu].
At least one contemporary fine arts gateway, Artnet.com [http://www.artnet.com],
provides free, licensed access to selected Grove Art
Online content, including historical art, in the form
of Artists' Biographies, Materials and Techniques,
and Styles and Movements.
I will chiefly deal with digitized, original historical
Western (European and North American) art images of
any nonphotographic medium prior to the 20th century
found in cultural institutions or on private sites.
I've ignored commercial art and illustration, as well
as architectural images. My intent was to create a
kind of virtual "grand tour" of Western art, mainly
from English-language sources, and to survey and sample
the largest and best historical art from institutions
and private sites in North America and Europe. I consulted
many art history subject guides and gateways, relying
chiefly on those compiled by art historians or art
librarians. Due to space limitations, I've had to leave
out many other kinds of resources, some of which I've
summarized in the sidebar at left, "It's All Art: Other
Search Spots for Online Art Images."
Reference Sources, Subject Guides,
and Gateways to Art Resources
Resource guides are particularly useful as starting
points, describing content and organization, site maintenance,
selectiveness, search tools, and sometimes the qualifications
of site editors. Most of these guides refer to one
another. Link rot (dead links) may affect your assessment
of these sites. I've arranged them by their origin
(academic or librarian, commercial, and private) and
their focus on museums or art galleries.
Academic, Librarian, Commercial, and Private
Art History Guides
For ease of use and organization, look
first at The Digital Librarian by Margaret Vail
Anderson [http://www.digital-librarian.com], particularly
in the Images and the Art pages.
Sweet Briar College (Virginia) art
history professor Chris Witcombe's Art History Resources
on the Web [http://witcombe.sbc.edu/ARTHLinks.html], "online
since October 24, 1995," will lead you through the
time, place, and types of artistic expression in
a well-developed, clear taxonomy. It's one of the
referenced art history guides I came across. Even
with a basic, but good navigational interface, I
lack of a search engine for such a comprehensive
and near-decade-old resource an odd omission.
The University of Michigan's Mother
of All Art and Art History Links Page [http://www.art-design.umich.edu/mother/] sports a top-level section titled Image Collections
and Online Art. All the pages of this guide contain
annotated links organized into categories relevant
to the section topic.
At Boston College, Jeffery Howe's Art
on the Web [http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/Artweb.html] boasts more than 1,200 art and architecture links,
including a section devoted to Image Collections.
The University of California, Davis,
University Library's Art and Art History guide
a well-rounded set of Selected Internet Resources in
Art and Art History arranged in four broad categories.
The Art History Webmasters Association
des webmestres en histoire de l'artthat (AHWA-AWHA)
founded by Canadian art history Professor Robert
Derome, Université du
Québec à Montréal, in 1997.
Although the AHWA-AWHA disbanded in 2003, Professor
Derome continues to maintain the Index of Art
History Departments' Websites Around the World [http://www.unites.uqam.ca/dhistart/].
Other academic-related sites that will help you
find art image databases include ARTHIST, the
H-NET Information Network for Art History [http://www.arthist.net];
and links to the Kunstgeschichte: Institut & Verbände
weltweit (Art History: Institutes and Associations
Around the World) [http://www.khist.unizh.ch/KgInstis.html] compiled by Dr. Thomas Freivogel, Kunsthistorisches
Institut der Universität Zürich, Switzerland.
Alan Liu and his team at the University
of California, Santa Barbara, weave a comfortable
pile of resources in the Voice of the Shuttle: Art & Art
History section [http://vos.ucsb.edu/browse.asp?id=2707].
Though the subsection "Image, Slide, Print, Clip Art
Resources" is rather threadbare, the General Art
Resources at the beginning does lead to art image
Always a useful starting point, the
venerable and decade-old Infomine: Scholarly Internet Resource
Collections [http://infomine.ucr.edu], University
of California, Riverside, covers the Visual & Performing
Arts. A keyword search for "art" in every indexed
field except Author revealed 1,656 expert- and robot-selected
resources (some relate to photography and the non-visual
The map-based graphic index is a great
touch in Ramon Soler's well-organized, Spanish-language
international guide, Recursos a internet d'art i
arquitectura (Art and Architecture Internet
hosted by the Universitat
Autònoma de Barcelona.
Uppsala University Library's Agora:
A Gateway to Online Resources in the Arts and Humanities [http://agora.ub.uu.se] targets the Swedish academic community, and volunteer
editors from various institutions review link submissions.
Most of the 2,000+ resources (not all relating to
art) are publicly available. Although the site interface
is bilingual (English and Swedish), many of the resource
descriptions are in Swedish or other non-English
Created by George P. Landow, professor
of English and art history, Brown University, The
Victorian Web's Visual Arts section [http://www.victorianweb.org/art/artov.html] gave an excellent sense of what exists covering "The
Arts in Victorian Britain" for the two-thirds of
the 19th century when Queen Victoria ruled. Comparable
guides to earlier centuries with sections on art
Jack Lynch's Eighteenth Century Resources (Rutgers
the Luminarium (Anniina Jokinen) [http://www.luminarium.org],
for the Medieval, Renaissance, and 17th-century eras
(look in the Resources section of each period for links
to art); The Labyrinth: Resources for Medieval Studies (Georgetown
University) [http://labyrinth.georgetown.edu]; and NetSERF:
The Internet Connection for Medieval Resources (Beau
A.C. Harbin, Catholic University of America) [http://www.netserf.org or http://netserf.cua.edu].
once known as Allwall.com and founded in 1995 by
then-young entrepreneurs Joshua Chodniewicz and Michael
bought its name and assets from Getty Images in 2001.
You can search or browse through a massive collection "over
1.4 trillion product combinations" of historic
and contemporary art reproductions. The May 2004
American Business Awards (the Stevies) honored Art.com
best e-commerce site.
World Wide Arts Resources (also
known as AbsoluteArts.com) [http://wwar.com], based
in Ohio and started in 1995, claims to be "the largest
arts site on the World Wide Web." The site offers free
access to "over 80,000 works by over 10,000 artists
from around the world." Its Art History database, keyword
searchable or browsable by artist name, claims to offer
more than 200,000 images from cultural institutions
around the world and to cover over 22,000 artists.
In addition to online image links to specific museum
collections for the historical artists, you may also
find links on the same page to news stories, "related
sites," and URLs for "Metasearch Website Matches," that
is, search engine results based on the artist's name.
Like many other catalogs, watch out for name authority
issues in the name index, for example, Renoir, Auguste
(64 museum images) and Renoir-Pierre, Auguste.
Traditional Fine Arts Organization,
Inc., publishes Resource Library Magazine America's
Magazine for Representational Art [http://www.tfaoi.com/resourc.htm],
an excellent background tool that includes "thousands
of [free, extensively indexed and hyperlinked] RLM illustrated
articles and scholarly essays on American art published
in HTML format since 1997," along with illustrated
profiles of historical American art collections.
Canadian John Malyon, an IT professional,
established Artcyclopedia, the Fine Art Search Engine [http://www.artcyclopedia.com] in 1999. Offering access to "125,000 great works of
art" (historic and contemporary) through direct searches
or site browsing, Artcyclopedia was one of 2001's
Best Free Reference Web Sites awarded the American
Association's RUSA Machine-Assisted Reference Section
Texan Mark Haden's The Artchive [http://www.artchive.com] of historic and contemporary art, like many personal
sites, appeals for funds to keep it open. Interlinked
components consist of the Artchive itself, a Yahoo!-style
subject directly accompanied by an alphabetic index
that functions as a site map, a series of virtual exhibits
and illustrated essay reviews called Juxtapositions,
a series of Galleries also functioning as virtual exhibits,
and a selection of original and excerpted art criticism
Insecula, l'encyclopédie des
arts et de l'architecture [http://www.insecula.com],
created by artist Antoine Kuipers (b. 1951, Paris),
offers keyword searches to "museums, places, works," or
to artists. It has in-depth entries for individual
artists (Vincent van Gogh in particular) and museums,
as well as linking to individual artworks. The
section devoted to the Louvre contains 10,570 items
this means pieces of art). Although Insecula offers
a choice of French or English, all the entries
I viewed were in French with a smattering of English.
Academic, Librarian, Commercial, and Private
Art Museum and Gallery Guides
Many art history guides listed above also refer
to museums and galleries. These guides reach museums
and gallery sites. [A few other museum Web guides were
also listed in my earlier Searcher article, "Images
of History on the Web" (May 2002), http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/may02/mattison.htm.]
The Virtual Library museums pages (VLmp),
sponsored by the International Council of Museums,
contains a section on Art Galleries, maintained
by British computing professor Jonathan Bowen (London
South Bank University). Besides a well-rounded selection
of major art museums and galleries around the world,
you should enjoy exploring the list of "Other guides."
ArtAtlas [http://artatlas.com], "the
database of art gallery contact informations" (sic),
nominally confines its entries to basic contact information,
including a gallery Web site if it exists. You can
search for a gallery by name, city, or artist.
MuseumStuff.com [http://www.museumstuff.com] has a database containing over 20,000 museum-related
resources. Select the big button labeled Art to go
to the art directory. Many of the links point to other
commercial sites, but this is a basic, point-and-click
guide to art topics and selected artists. The artist-related
links are not comprehensive; for example, I was surprised
not to see The Rossetti Archive on the page for Dante
Aiming to provide information about
every museum in the world, the MuseumNetwork.com's Musée guide
[http://www.musee-online.org] links to more than
37,000 museums. Like MuseumStuff.com, it has an Art & Design
category or you can use the advanced search to
find an art museum.
While Euromuse.net [http://www.euromuse.net],
the "official network of European art and cultural
history museums," focuses on exhibition activities,
the Resources page links to several databases with
art history information such as the Lost Art Internet
Database and many virtual exhibits and special presentations
using artwork. You should also investigate Euroclio.net [http://www.euroclio.net], "the
gateway to museums and history in Europe," for links
to historical museums throughout the European Union.
Academic Art Collection Image Databases
Launched in July 2004 to serve nonprofit institutions
in the U.S., ARTstor [http://www.artstor.org] is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and modeled
on the highly successful "scholarly journal archive" JSTOR project
[http://www.jstor.org]. At launch, it delivered around
300,000 images along with software tools. Operating
as an independent non-profit itself since January 2004,
according to the FAQ, "Like JSTOR, ARTstor will therefore
charge institutional licensing fees to defray some
part of ARTstor's ongoing operating costs. Ongoing
development of ARTstor collections will be funded in
other ways." Development plans include collection growth
to 500,000 images by 2006. The ARTstor Charter Collection,
in testing since 2003, contains a well-rounded sampling
of art and architecture from European and Asian traditions.
The University of California's Berkeley Art Museum
and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) [http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/
resources/art_collection/index.html] maintains a free catalog to its permanent collection,
with 1,300 downloadable, mid-resolution JPG images
or about 10 percent of the collection. BAMPFA and
the California Digital Library also worked with California
museums and archives on the Museums and the Online
Archive of California (MOAC) [http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/moac/
and via the California Digital Library, http://www.cdlib.org/hlp/directory/moac.html]
project, which encompasses, according to the CDL
page, "77,000 images from 11 California museums." The
image collections cover the entire Pacific Northwest,
including Alaska, and also the Pacific Ocean (Hawaii)
The Perseus Digital Library [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu] at Tufts University, edited by Gregory Crane in the
department of classics, covers the Greco-Roman Classical
world, as well as the European Renaissance, and a few
other unrelated topics such as 19th-century London
and parts of the U.S. Although the site emphasizes
classical texts, you'll also discover a large visual
repository (nearly 60,000 images as of June 30, 2004)
from institutions and individual researchers around
the world relating to ancient Greece and Rome. Through
the Art & Archaeology Browser tool you can click
through pre-defined categories to view images and detailed
records relating to architecture, sculpture, vases,
coins, gems, and sites. You can also browse or search
individual object art and architecture catalogs.
An outstanding regional example of a public, multi-institutional
database, the Five College Museums / Historic Deerfield
Collections Database [http://museums.fivecolleges.edu/III/index.htm] contains descriptions of over 60,000 objects accompanied
by thumbnail images.
California State University's WorldArt Kiosk [http://worldart.sjsu.edu],
hosted at San Jose State University, offers over 35,000
art images searchable by keyword, browsable through
various topic categories or "portfolios" which represent
groupings of works by controlled vocabulary. Members
of the university community can also create their own
portfolio views for others to examine. LUCI (Library
of University of California Images) [http://vrc.ucr.edu/luci/index.html] features digitized or digital photographs by faculty
or staff from several campuses relating to Greek, Roman,
and California art and architecture.
Like many other campuses, Yale, Harvard, and Cornell
universities develop and offer internal and external
access to extensive visual collections. Yale University's Lewis
Walpole Library Digital Collection [http://www.library.yale.edu/walpole/
html/research/digital_collection.html] contains 10,000+ online images from a 13,000+ collection
of "English caricatures and political satirical prints
from the late-17th through the mid-19th centuries." You
can search only by keyword or call number through the
library's own interface, or by using the Beinecke
Rare Book and Manuscript Library: Digital Collections
Cross Collection Search [http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/].
The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library offers
its own online images, over 60,000 from its photo negative
file and other sources.
Although an outstanding accomplishment, Harvard
University Library's Visual Information Access [http://via.harvard.edu] has one serious limitation for art image research.
It doesn't allow searching by the format of the original
item. When I selected the option "Limit search to records
that have digital images," the system offered 69,657
records, not all of which had thumbnails for copyright
reasons and not all of which represent artwork. By
further limiting a search to a specific Harvard repository
or using keywords that represent art-related vocabulary,
you can limit search results, but format information
would work better.
The Cornell University Image Collections [http://insight.library.cornell.edu/insightbrowser2/launcher.asp] accesses public art image collections such as the Louis
Agassiz Fuertes Image Database (2,500 ornithological
illustrations), Beautiful Birds: Masterpieces from
the Hill Ornithology Collection, the Claire Holt Papers
(1,733 images of Indonesian arts and crafts), and the
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art Collection (17,000
images) through the Cornell University Library Digital
Collections page [http://campusgw.library.cornell.edu/
Some academic institutions such as the University
of Pennsylvania Library's Online Image Collections [http://imagesvr.library.upenn.edu/i/image/all/] 30,000
online images and the University of Minnesota's Visual
Resources Center [http://fmdb.cla.umn.edu/vrc_web/default.htm] 10,000
online images adopt the approach used by commercial
agencies and provide thumbnail access to their online
The University of Nebraska Press' Gallery of
the Open Frontier [http://gallery.unl.edu], "an
online resource drawn initially from the primary
collections of the National Archives," contains over
23,000 searchable photographs and artwork (chiefly
photographs of drawings and paintings). The images
document the continental U.S. west of the Mississippi
River and depict events between the Louisiana Purchase
(1803) and 1917.
Mary Ann Sullivan's Digital Imaging Project (Bluffton
College) [http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/] features
more than 10,000 images of sculpture and architecture
taken at various sites around the world and dating
back to prehistory. Although there's no search index,
she's indexed the photographs by artist, site name,
and time period, making it easy and quick to find individual
images. You can download the JPG images for personal
use only. On a smaller scale, the University of Utah's Images
of Art and Architecture [http://www2.art.utah.edu:81/index.html] database contains around 4,000 "digitized reproductions
of works of art and architecture ranging from the period
before written history through the 20th century."
In the face of larger, better-funded, and more technologically
advanced projects aimed at the educational market such
as ARTstor and the AMICO Library, Allan T. Kohl's personal,
nonprofit project, Art Images for College Teaching [http://arthist.cla.umn.edu/aict/html/index.html],
may provide welcome relief and content for institutions
that can't afford licensing fees, but need access to
good art, including images of architecture. Unfortunately,
the lack of a search engine makes it hard to search
for specific images. The metadata for each image includes
references to an appearance in one or more textbooks.
Private and Public Art Gallery
While it's relatively simple to track down publicly
funded art galleries around the world, Web resource
guides may not always indicate the presence of a digital
image database. The following are some of the finest
and largest online art image databases you can access
for free. Image content, however, varies from thumbnails
to high-resolution and ultra-magnified images. Each
database (catalog) has a minimum of 2,000 digitized
Based in the U.S., the best-known and one of the
largest examples of an international cooperative of
public museums and galleries, the Art Museum Image
Consortium (also known as the AMICO Library) [http://www.amico.org],
founded by the Art Museum Network [http://www.amn.org],
features a publicly accessible thumbnail image database
of more than 100,000 works of art. Library Journal chose
AMICO as a 2003 Best Reference site.
The following represents just a small sampling of
U.S. public galleries, art museums, and other cultural
institutions, along with a few private and commercial
sites, that offer very large image databases of fine
art and cultural objects of artistic worth. All contain
at least 2,000 online images, arranged in descending
order by size of collection.
The Library of Congress preserves vast
quantities of artwork in the form of photomechanical
and hand-press originals, as well as drawings. The Prints
and Photographs Online Catalog page summarizes
each collection [http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/catalog.html].
The American Memory digital collections [http://memory.loc.gov] can identify digital collections that feature printed
artwork such as posters, and many digitized historic
books and magazines also contain art illustrations.
Don't miss the Global Gateway site for international
and individual digital collections [http://international.loc.gov] and the Exhibitions page [http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/].
Scheduled for full public, free access
in fall 2004, the New York Public Library's NYPL
Digital Gallery [http://www.nypl.org/digital/digitalgallery.cfm] will feature "more than 400,000 digital images from
NYPL collections, including illuminated manuscripts,
historical maps, rare prints, and photographs." You
can view a number of smaller art images collections
now through the Prints & Photographs category
of the Digital Collections page, or through the Mid-Manhattan
Library Picture Collection Online of more than
30,000 images [http://digital.nypl.org/mmpco/].
Thinker ImageBase, Fine Arts Museums
of San Francisco [http://www.thinker.org/fam/about/imagebase/index.asp],
the largest public art gallery database in the U.S.,
contains over 85,000 images. The advanced search
lets you search by keyword, artist, country, or time
period. Except for the time period pick list, no
controlled vocabulary searches exist until you get
to the database record itself, where you'll find
hyperlinked related keywords.
The Cleveland Museum of Art's Ingalls
Library's Image Catalog [http://library.clevelandart.org/public/copyright.html] describes a circulating collection of art images, some
accompanied by thumbnails. According to the ARLIS/NA
Visual Resources Division list of member databases,
updated in March 2004, the image catalog describes
52,000 online images or 11 percent of the entire collection.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
(LACMA) Collections Online [http://collectionsonline.lacma.org] exuberantly advertises, "Explore 46,104 artworks (nearly
half of our collection!)." Around 25,000 images accompany
the database records. From the same county, the Autry
National Center's Museum of the American West [http://www.autrynationalcenter.org/collections/] carries some (Wild) Western art.
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts Collections
Database [http://www.mfa.org/artemis/collections/index.htm] represents one example of several North American
and European museums whose online collections databases
incorporate detailed information, along with images
of European art from areas occupied by Nazi Germany
during World War II. You can access over 27,000 online
images from the total database of around 30,000 records,
which describe about 9 percent of the collection.
As you might expect with two national
art institutions, you'll find lots of online art
at the National Gallery of Art [http://www.nga.gov] search
the entire collection of more than 106,000 objects
and view images for over 5,600 objects and
the Smithsonian's American Museum of Art [http://americanart.si.edu/search/search_artworks.cfm],
where you can search for more than 18,000 online images
or 45 percent of the total collection.
Seattle Art Museum [http://www.seattleartmuseum.org],
Seattle, Washington. Search the permanent collection
of more than 20,000 works with 12,000 (60 percent)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New
York) [http://www.metmuseum.org] features two outstanding
databases of online images: the first, over 6,500
digital reproductions from the permanent collection,
entire Department of European Paintings and the entire
Department of American Paintings and Sculpture," and
the second, the Timeline of Art History, which
ranges in time from prehistory to the present.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts [http://www.artsmia.org/collection/] provides keyword searching for over 5,000 digitized
objects from its total collection of over 100,000 items
that cover many different cultures over time and space.
You can also use the collection guide and browse the
5,000 items by culture or medium.
Operated by the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy
(founded 1862), the catalog to the entire Albright-Knox
Art Gallery [http://www.albrightknox.org] permanent
collection offers thumbnail images for an estimated
Opened in 1929 in Manchester, New Hampshire,
as a result of a private bequest, the Currier Museum
of Art [http://18.104.22.168/] contains an extraordinary
collection of European and American art, with over
10,000 cataloged images.
Here are the top two Web galleries created by private
individuals based in the U.S.:
Olga's Gallery [http://www.abcgallery.com].
Started in 1999 by sisters-in-law Olga and Helen Mataev,
it is especially strong in online images of European
and Russian artists. Several indexes let you quickly
locate galleries by artist name, artist country, artist
by movement or school, or a complete index to all persons.
Background resources such as artist biographies and
thematic indexes relating to the depiction of religious
themes in art are comparable to what you will find
on some other private sites.
Carol Gerten-Jackson's CGFA [Carol
Gerten's Fine Art], A Virtual Art Museum [http://cgfa.sunsite.dk/index.html].
Started in 1996, it contains images you can browse
by artist name, nationality, and time period. It
also carries compiled biographical information for
most, if not all, the artists.
The author's opinions do not necessarily reflect
those of his employer.
IT'S ALL ART Other Search Spots for
Online Art Images
Media-, Genre-, and Artist-Specific
Resources and Databases
As an example of a school of art that's attracted
a lot of attention among amateur and professional art
historians, the British Pre-Raphaelites Brotherhood
stands out as evidenced by these truly magnificent
Web tributes to their work:
which partially closed in early July 2004, was "a nonprofit
virtual art gallery displaying [over 4,000] paintings
from art movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries
(for example, Symbolist, Pre-Raphaelite and Art Nouveau)." Some
information was archived by the site owner. A sister
site, P.R.B.: The Pre-Raphaelites [Brotherhood] [http://www.preraphaelites.info],
will open some time in 2004.
The Athenaeum [http://www.the-athenaeum.org],
launched in 2001 and based on an earlier Tripod.com
site by Chris McCormick devoted to the Pre-Raphaelites,
contains over 15,000 online images contributed by users.
founded by Pre-Raphaelite fan Igor Bogdanov, capitalizes
on the popularity of this highly romanticized imagery.
You can search or browse for hundreds of images here.
Many of the most recognized 19th century and earlier
names in the history of art around the world have their
own Web sites with extensive digital reproductions
of their oeuvre:
Great Britain Arthur
Hughes (1827-1910): ArthurHughes.com [http://www.arthurhughes.com] is devoted to this member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
and contains over 2,000 images.
Great Britain Dante
Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882): The Rossetti Archive:
The Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante Gabriel
Rossetti: A Hypermedia Research Archive [http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/rossetti/index.html] documents the most famous member of the Pre-Raphaelite
Great Britain William
Blake (1757-1827): The William Blake Archive [http://www.blakearchive.org/],
which includes thousands of this poet and artist's
images, was awarded the 2003 MLA Prize for a Distinguished
Scholarly Edition, the first ever for a Web site.
As with the Rossetti Archive, this site is based
in the U.S. and sponsored by some of the same organizations
such as the University of Virginia's Institute for
Advanced Technology in the Humanities.
van Gogh (1853-1890): Van Gogh Museum [http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl), Van
Gogh 2003 150 [http://www.holland.com/vangogh/],
and the Vincent van Gogh Gallery [http://www.vangoghgallery.com],
the last a private site, endorsed by the van Gogh Museum,
by Canadian David Brooks.
Patriotic posters from military conflicts seem to
dominate digitized poster collections, along with propaganda
posters from various governments. For a nice round-up
of scholarly collections of art posters, historic and
contemporary, I recommend starting with the Images
section in Margaret Vail Anderson's The Digital
You'll also find a huge variety of commercial reproductions
of historical art and other kinds
of posters through sites such as AllPosters.com [http://www.allposters.com], "the
world's largest poster and print store," with 26,244 items in the Fine Arts
Commercial Image Agencies
The two largest commercial, multinational, historical
art image agencies I came across are the Bridgeman
Art Library [http://www.bridgeman.co.uk], founded
in 1972, which serves Corbis, Getty Images, and Grove
Art Online, and AKG-images (Archiv für
Kunst und Geschichte [Art and History Archive]) [http://www.akg-images.com],
a German agency founded in 1945. A quick advanced search
in the Medium field of Bridgeman for "watercolour" revealed
14,280 hits, with "painting" displaying 58,860 items,
and "drawing" a mere 71. Most of the database records
include an image. AKG, which serves only business clients,
offers over 150,000 digital images on a variety of
topics, not just historical art. You can sample dozens
of images through its online gallery.
Art Resource [http://www.artres.com], "the worlds
largest fine art stock photo archive," founded in 1968
by Columbia University's Dr. Theodore Feder, features "100,000
keyword-searchable fine art images" licensable for
commercial use exclusively in North America from the
some of the best art museums and galleries in the world
such as the Louvre, the Tate, the Sistine Chapel, the
Hermitage, the Smithsonian, and the Museum of Modern
Art (New York).
Saskia, Ltd. [http://www.saskia.com], founded
in 1966 by art historian Dr. Ronald Wiedenhoeft, who
also acts as the photographer, specializes in reproductions
of fine art for educational use. You can browse its
catalog of over 27,000 images by textbook set, image
sets, artists, museums, countries or periods.
Many other multimedia major commercial image agencies
such as Corbis [http://www.corbis.com] and Getty
Images [http://www.gettyimages.com] also contain
images of posters and other kinds of commercial and
fine art imagery. Among the fine art content suppliers
to Corbis are the Italian Alinari Archives (Fratelli
Alinari) [http://www.alinari.com], the Philadelphia
Museum of Art [http://www.philamuseum.org], the
Spanish Archivo Iconográfico [http://aisa-bcn.com] online search and 125,000 images available June 2004,
and the National Gallery in London, England
[http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk]. Since Corbis and
other commercial image resellers often digitally watermark
their images, you should also examine the national
and academic art gallery resources separately, because
you may find the same or other images available at
higher resolutions and/or for free. These images, as
is the case with the National Gallery, may also be
watermarked. Fratelli Alinari also offers its own subscription-based
educational site in Italian and English of 85,000 images
of fine art and photographs [http://edu.alinari.it].
Going Once, Going Twice, Sold!
Auction houses are wonderful sources for online images,
though usually on a temporary basis. Sotheby's [http://www.sothebys.com] and Christie's [http://www.christies.com] are
two of the best-known multinational auction houses
that feature browsable or searchable catalogs of upcoming
and past sales, along with downloadable mid-resolution
JPG images. Christie's does not provide online images
for past sales. Christie's Images [http://www.christiesimages.com],
upon free registration, lets
you search for "a small selection, of the thousands of images in our library...." Use
the Google Directory or your local knowledge to find auction houses that specialize
in fine art sales.
Cram That Art: Art History Textbooks
Publishers of art history textbooks may offer a companion
Web site. Two examples I encountered were the History
of Art by H.W. Janson and Anthony Janson (6th
ed. and rev. 6th ed., Prentice-Hall) [http://www.prenhall.com/janson/],
and Marilyn Stokstad's Art History (2nd
ed., Prentice-Hall) [http://wps.prenhall.com/hss_stokstad_arthistrev_2/].
Wadsworth, a publishing division of the Thomson Corporation,
features a site devoted to the study of art history
in its Arts and Humanities section [http://www.wadsworth.com/art_d/],
with annotated art history links and a "Guide to Researching
Art History Online."
Repatriation of Stolen Art
As actress Elizabeth Taylor discovered, all's not
fair when it comes historic art and war. She launched
a lawsuit in May 2004 to retain a van Gogh painting
claimed by descendants of a German woman who once owned
it, which Taylor's father bought for her at a 1963
Sotheby's auction. Since Taylor's lawyer's stated there's
no evidence the painting was ever in Nazi hands, it's
unlikely any of these databases will help her or the
Operated by the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish
Studies on behalf of the Commission for Looted Art
in Europe, the Central Registry of Information on
Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945 [http://www.lootedart.com] features an object database with "details of several
thousand objects of all kinds from over 12 countries."
A comparable effort in the U.S., the American Association
of Museums maintains the Nazi-Era Provenance Internet
Portal [http://www.nepip.org], which features a
database of suspect cultural property, including Judaica
items, from 105 museums in the U.S. Rather than providing
images in its database, however, each record links
to an institutional Web site. Several of the records
stated that the institution had collection information
online, so chances are you'll find an image online
due to the intense effort underway to resolve ownership
Germany's Lost Art Internet Database [http://www.lostart.de],
a federal and state government project available through
German, English or Russian interfaces, documents both
looted or stolen cultural objects and reports of rediscovered
The Dutch Origins Unknown (Herkomst Gezocht)
information on the unrepatriated Nederlands Kunstbezit-collectie
(NK-collection, 2,641 illustrated database records),
which consists of items looted by Germany from Holland
during World War II.
Finally, the Museum Security Network offers a long
and very descriptive list of sites devoted to WW.II.
and the Looted Art Problem [http://www.museum-security.org/ww2/index.html],
along with direct links to the Google directory on
World War II art thefts and provenance research.
The Art of
Falling between fine art and books, the beautiful,
unique, hand-drawn manuscripts, associated in the popular
imagination with European monks, have attracted the
interest of many site builders. This short list of
extraordinary collaborative and individual databases
in Europe and the U.S. connects to thousands of images.
The Digital Scriptorium [http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/Scriptorium/] at the University of California, Berkeley, brings together
over 15,000 digitized images from more than 3,500 illuminated
manuscripts and documents preserved in U.S. institutions.
In addition to searching all contributing institutions,
special searches are also available for the Huntington
Library's collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts
and images from selected Petrarch manuscripts in the
Manuscripta Mediaevalia [http://www.manuscripta-mediaevalia.de],
a joint project of libraries in Berlin, Marburg, and Munich, contains a union
catalog of medieval illuminated and textual manuscripts in full color or
black & white from German repositories, along with selected digital facsimiles
of post-medieval published catalogs and inventories. The Ikcongraphic browser
uses the ICONCLASS classification system, the same tool used by Foto Marburg's
Bildindex der Kunst und Architektur, and many other European art history
The Enluminures database [http://www.enluminures.culture.fr] contains 14,000 selected images from 1,2000 illuminated
manuscripts preserved by France's public libraries.
Some libraries, such as the Bibliothèque Municipale
de Lyon, also offer access to their own holdings; its la
base Enluminures [http://www.bm-lyon.fr/trouver/basesdedonnees/Collections-numeriques.htm] contains 12,000 images from 457 illuminated manuscripts
dating between the 5th and 16th centuries.
The Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of
the Netherlands) Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts database
the full power of the ICONCLASS system, which you can
use to browse the collection of about 10,000 images
from 400 or so manuscripts, nearly the entire collection.
The highlights page contains the most entertaining introduction
to illuminated manuscripts I've come across.
In some of the well-known search engines and specialized
image search engines, I tried a search of "van gogh" (with
and without quotation marks) and image search options;
some of these sites also support simultaneous, multimedia
searches (audio, still, and video images). You may
get different results with and without quotations surrounding
your search terms. The results column contains query
queries with quotation marks ("19,089") and without quotation marks (19,222).
DOWN FOR THE COUNT:
TOTAL NUMBER OF ONLINE HISTORICAL ARTWORKS
This table reflects only selected sites and databases
in my article. Some of the commercial agency and academic
sites license or contain images from public cultural
institutions. Several sites described as public access
may require a subscription for full-image access and
may also sell reproductions and/or license their images.
Some commercial agencies do not provide images for
personal use. I've excluded most of the individual
artist, art repatriation/provenance research, and sites
where I could not determine or quickly estimate a total
number of images. [See also the "Down for the Count" table
of historical photographs, which includes photos of
artwork, in my "Images of History on the Web," Searcher
(May 2002, http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/may02/mattison.htm).
For digital heritage print collections, many of which
include photomechanical reproductions of artwork, see
my "The Past in Your Pocket: Digital Heritage Print
Collections in Canada and Abroad," Searcher (September