If, like me, you find yourself frequently frustrated with the relatively low resolution images provided by many museums and fine art sites; and tire of the frustrating little zoom windows that they provide for a “close up”, I have a suggestion for a site that you may not have considered.
This site has nice large images of museum quality art that happens to be changing hands. It is the Sotheby’s auction site.
Sotheby’s is a long established auction house through which some of the world’s most expensive (and notorious) art purchases have been transacted. Prior to their sales they post on their site previews of the items to be auctioned, in high enough resolution for potential buyers to take a look, and even bid online if inclined.
For those of us who can’t shell out a few million for the odd masterpiece here and there, the site is still a treasure trove of relatively high resolution images of terrific art.
You can’t pick and choose, of course; what’s up is what happens to be for sale, but I find it rare that I cannot check out an auction of art from the early 20th Century or earlier without encountering several pieces that make the visit worthwhile.
They currently list an auction of American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture that is due to be auctioned in New York on December 3, 2009. It includes work by Everett Shinn, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Andrew Wyeth, Robert Henri, Childe Hassam, Thomas Hart Benton, Norman Rockwell, Mary Cassatt, Edward Redfield, Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Moran, J.C. Leyendecker, Thomas Eakins, James Bama, Frederic Remington, and N.C. Wyeth, among others.
Click on “View E-Catalogue”, wait a few seconds for the pop-up window to populate with thumbnails, then maximize the window and scroll through the thumbnails to find what you like. Mouse over them to see the name of the piece and artist, and click to view the single piece. Then look for the “Zoom In” button below the image and use the plus sign to enlarge the image as large as it will go. The title block and zoom control can block part of the image, but you can get around that by moving your mouse to scroll.
Exit zoom and you can then use the next and previous buttons to move through the images, or use the navigation to return to the thumbnails.
The images are usually much larger than most encountered on the net, often large enough to see the brushstrokes quite nicely.
From the main pages you can choose “Explore Auctions” and find sales of old masters, 19th Century art, Russian painting, Impressionist and modern art and a variety of other auctions scheduled in locations across the world. There are several pages of auctions listed at any given time.
For any of them, click “Browse New E-Catalog” to get to the large images. There are also downloadable PDF catalogs for many of the auctions, but the images in them are not as large as those on the site.
Come back in a few weeks, and there will be another set of auctions to browse.
Do I see someone in the back raising their hand? Making a bid? No? A Question. “What about Christies?” you say.
Yes, Christie’s is the other high end art auction site, and you will find some wonderful pieces there as well, but their display is limited to the more common zoom in a box feature, albeit a larger one than usual. The Sotheby’s display is much nicer (though it’s certainly worthwhile browsing through the Christie’s lots).
So take a look through. You never know, you might find something you want to pick up for over the couch.
(Image above, with enlargement from full size image: The Courtship: J.C. Leyendecker; estimate: $30,000 – $50,000)