Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Athenaeum

The Athenaeum: from the collection of The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
The Athenaeum is essentially a virtual museum, in some ways similar to the Art Renewal Center (my post here) or the Web Gallery of Art (my post here), but with its own focus and strengths.

As of this writing, The Athenaeum lists their online collection of art images at 43,339 (with 14 added in the last seven days), making it one one the largest art resources on the web, perhaps second only to the Art Renewal Center.

The Athenaeum is one of my favorite online sources of images from art history; they frequently have good selections of a given artist’s work, reproduced large enough to enjoy and with well balanced color (which can be a problem on some art image repositories).

You can search the archive via Google with the search box on the home page or the “Visual Arts” landing page.

You can also browse alphabetically by artist name, or even name of the work.

In the lists for individual artists, be aware that there are frequently multiple pages of thumbnails, linked from small numbers at the top of the list. You can sort these lists by title, date and medium and toggle the order of each.

Click through the thumbnail or title link to the detail page for the work, and click on the image again for the large reproduction.

You can also browse a museum list; these lists can be sorted by title, artist or date. In the museum listing details click on “Artworks at this museum” at the top to see works in the Athenaeum archive from that museum’s collections.

This can be a fascinating way to browse, in that it produces an interesting mix of artists and styles.

The above images, for example, are all from the collection of The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (from top: Edmund Tarbell, Raphaelle Peale, Thomas Eakins [no longer in the collection, alas], Cecilia Beaux, Winslow Homer and Theodore Robinson).

(See also my posts on Edmund Tarbell, Thomas Eakins, Cecilia Beaux and the web site of The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.)

5 thoughts on “The Athenaeum

  1. Katherine Tyrrell

    Thanks for this post Charlie. The Athenaeum is one of my all-time favourite art websites. If I ever get fed up about my own work I go and have a wallow in their excellent images of works by very many different artists

    I particularly like the fact they have so many more images than most sites and you can flex the listings so you can see how an artist progresses during the course of their career, what media they preferred – and just how much some artists painted in a year!

  2. Daniel van Benthuysen

    A terrific resource, on par with ArtStor but without the membership requirements and fees.

    The word “Athenaeum” emerged during the Greek Revival period and suggests an institution devoted to learning and study. The term shows up in names of libraries, scientific organizations and art collections. The Wadsworth Athenaeum, for example, in Hartford CT, is this country’s oldest art museum.

  3. Michael

    Another huge repository I recently discovered is the Museum Syndicate site ( http://www.museumsyndicate.com/ ) which boasts 47,000+ works, and still growing.
    It features many lesser known American painters.
    My favourite game at the moment is to use the “Show Random Picture” button, and try to identify the artist before scrolling down to look at the caption.
    For people with a LOT of time on their hands, there’s a silly but enjoyable Jigsaw game, in which you re-assemble paintings.
    It’s fun when you get a Juan Gris painting to rebuild!

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