Public Domain Art Resources

Claude Monet (French, 1840 – 1926), The Bridge at Argenteuil, 1874, oil on canvas, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon 1983.1.24

Well, a few days ago I posted a resource I use for finding free ebooks in the public domain.  And that has attracted a good response from readers.  So today, I thought I’d offer you something else which I use regularly:  I want to offer you two resources I use to find public domain art images.

Public domain images are good for a couple of reasons: 1) So much fine art is stored away in museums and private collections and never viewed by the public.  This is a shame.  But art institutions are now making images of these artworks available and free to the public to download and enjoy!  I use public domain images as computer screen wallpaper but that brings me to reason 2) If you have a blog or website or you need a beautiful image for the cover of the new book you’ve written, you are allowed to use public domain images for these purposes also.  And there are other ways you may use PD images but I’ll leave it up to you to read up on public domain permissions, but I will say the uses are very liberal.  I will add, however, different countries, as I understand it, may have different criteria for what qualifies as “public domain” and what is not.  So keep that in mind.

So let’s get to the resources I want to mention.

The first is The National Gallery of Art which is a U. S. government institution.  The link takes you to their “Open Access” homepage.  Use the “Browse the Collection” button on that page to view their huge collection of images.  Also, here is the quick link to their Open Access Policy which is useful to read.

The second resource I’ll offer is WikiArt: Visual Art Encyclopedia.  (The link takes you to their homepage.)  But only some of their collection is public domain.  However, it’s quite easy to know which images are because each image is clearly marked “public domain” in the text right below the image itself if it is indeed public domain.  See HERE for example.  As a general rule of thumb, when I’m looking through the images, if the date of the image is 100 years old or older, it is probably in the public domain.  But always go to the image itself and see if it has the public domain label beneath the image first before you use it.

Also, in the WikiArt collection, if you click on the label, “public domain” when it appears beneath the image, you’ll get a popup box which reads as follows: