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Finding Art Images : Open Access Images

Images for reuse

Certain sites/organizations specifically facilitate reuse of their images.  Read the "terms and conditions" to make sure your reuse is covered. 

Auction houses online

Art auction houses provide online information and illustrations to varying degrees.  Some require either free or paid registration and login to access complete information.  Major firms include:

Museums online

Museums may allow you to search some or all of their collections online. Image sizes and extent of description will vary from museum to museum.

Search for museum websites and evaluate to determine if they provide searchable collections online or virtual exhibits. A website that compiles museum links is: http://www.artcyclopedia.com/museums.html

Below are selected museums with extensive online collections.

Image collections online

Following are sites that compile images from various artists/eras/sources. These sites vary widely in content and degree of authority.

Image vendors online

Companies that sell or license art reproductions can be good sources for visual browsing of works of art when they provide full scholarly descriptions of the works.  Although the images are small, you may discover works you didn't know existed.  With the descriptive information telling artist name, title, museum owner, etc., you have a factual start for further research on the object.    

Content based image searches

Reverse image serching allows you to upoad an image and retrieve other similar images. Use this technique to: 

  • Locate the source of an image
  • Find higher resolution versions
  • Discover webpages where the image appears
  • Track down the content creator
  • Get information about an image

Try are many systems that offer this service; here are two good ones.

OAI search

Over 1,000 digital repositories open their metadata for Open Archives Initiative harvesting.  Search for images in the union catalog of these digital objects.

Lists of image-rich websites

Following are portal websites that provide lists of other websites. Browse the lists to identify sites containing art images.