On Friday, The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that "more than 400,000 high-resolution digital images of public domain works in the Museum’s world-renowned collection may be downloaded directly from the Museum’s website for non-commercial use." Even better, the images can be used at no charge (and without getting permission from the museum). In making this announcement, the Met joined other world-class museums in putting put large troves of digital art online. Witness the 87,000 images from the Getty in L.A., the 125,000 Dutch masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum, the 35,000 artistic images from the National Gallery, and the 57,000 works of art on Google Art Project.
The Met's online initiative is dubbed "Open Access for Scholarly Content," and, while surfing the Met's digital collections, you'll know if a particular work is free to download if it bears the "OASC" acronym. In an FAQ, the Met provides simple instructions on how to figure that all out.
It takes a little patience. But once you start surfing through the digital collections, you can find and download images of some wonderful masterpieces. We've embedded a few of our favorite picks. At the top, you will find the 1874 painting "Boating," by Édouard Manet. In the middle, Rembrandt's "Self Portrait" from 1660. At the bottom, a 1907 photograph by Alfred Stieglitz called "The Steerage." And that's just starting to scratch the surface.
Happy rummaging. And, when you have some free time on your hands, you should also check out another open initiative from the Met. In 2012, the museum put 396 free art catalogs online. You can learn about them here.