I believe that our shared art heritage should be available to all (especially the parts that were plundered in the first place). The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently announced that it has released 400,000 digital images of its collection into the public domain. While the Met has always had images online, the new database includes high-resolution views suitable for scholarly study.
Two misconceptions need to be cleared up. First, this is not the Met’s whole collection, which numbers far more than 400,000 items. Also, no online viewer can “let you see the pieces as you might if you visited the museum in New York City, in person,” as one breathless reviewer wrote. There is no substitute for a real walk around a museum.
On the other hand, many of these objects can't be viewed in the museum at all, since they're not on display. That makes this online collection invaluable.
The Met is following a general trend in the art world to make access to artwork easier. The Farnsworth Art Museum bucks this trend, and I wish they’d stop. There is so much that can be learned from studying the technique of a master painter, and not all of us can go to Rockland to look at Andrew Wyeth’s preparatory sketches. (But if you want to, join me for my workshop in Belfast this summer.)
Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, 1662-65, Johannes Vermeer. To choose one work to demonstrate the breadth and depth of the Met’s collection is impossible, so why not start here?
The Met allows dissemination of images for scholarly purposes. What does that mean? Essentially, it means anything that isn’t for commercial gain, like reprinting images on umbrellas, scarves, and coffee mugs—those rights they reserve for themselves alone.
You can view the Met’s collection here.
Come paint with me in Belfast, ME! Information is available here.