The Art Institute of Chicago, one of the largest art museums in the U.S., has redesigned its website, and in the process, placed online a trove of over 50,000 large scale images of works from the collection.
They have done so under a “CC0” license, meaning public domain or “No Rights Reserved”, so you are free to download, distribute or do with the images as you will.
The collection is broad but seems to be particular strong in areas like French Impressionism and American Art, along with treasures by Rembrandt, Durer and other major figures.
You can search for keywords or artist name, and apply filters for medium, era and so on. Or you might want to get a cross section by using their browse feature, and clicking “Load More” at the bottom of the page as many times as you like. This can be a good way to come across gems that you might not otherwise know to search for.
Once you click through to an image detail page, there are convenient icons under the image for zoom, download and links.
I think this is a brilliant public relations move on the museum’s part. Going through these images, and being able to see them in detail, makes me want to hop on a plane to Chicago just to visit the Art Institute. Museum websites that skimp on the size of images from their collections don’t exert that pull.
As I have just experienced it, I will issue my “Timesink Warning” to those who are inclined to get lost in treasure troves of high resolution art images.
(Images above, with details: Gustave Caillebotte, Albert Bierstadt, John SInger Sargent, Claude Monet, Diego Velasquez, Alfons Mucha, Charles Gifford Dyer)