Download 35,000 Works of Art from the National Gallery, Including Masterpieces by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Rembrandt & More


As a young ama­teur painter and future art school dropout, I fre­quent­ly found myself haunt­ed by the faces of two artists, that famous­ly odd cou­ple from my favorite art his­to­ry novelization—and Kirk Dou­glas role and Iggy Pop song—Lust for Life. Vin­cent van Gogh and Paul Gau­guin, above and below respec­tive­ly, the tor­ment­ed Dutch fanat­ic and burly French bully—how, I still won­der, could such a pair have ever co-exist­ed, how­ev­er briefly? How could such beau­ti­ful­ly skewed visions of life have exist­ed at all?

Van Gogh and Gauguin’s sev­er­al self-por­traits still inspire won­der. My younger self had the lux­u­ry of see­ing these par­tic­u­lar two up close and in per­son at the Nation­al Gallery of Art in Wash­ing­ton, DC: Van Gogh’s gaunt and pierc­ing vis­age, Gauguin’s sneer­ing self-par­o­dy.

Now, thanks to the won­ders of dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy, my old­er self, and yours, can view and down­load high-res­o­lu­tion pho­tos of both paint­ings, and over 50,000 more from the museum’s vast hold­ings, through NGA Images, “a repos­i­to­ry of dig­i­tal images of the col­lec­tions of the Nation­al Gallery of Art.”


There you’ll find works by anoth­er obses­sive Dutch self-por­traitist, Rem­brandt van Rijn, such as the lush 1659 paint­ing below. You’ll find paint­ings from the heroes of the var­i­ous Renais­sances and French Impres­sion­ism, from move­ments mod­ern and colo­nial, pas­toral and urban. The col­lec­tion is dizzy­ing, and a lover of art could eas­i­ly lose hours sort­ing through it, sav­ing “open access dig­i­tal images up to 3000 pix­els each […] avail­able free of charge for down­load and use.” The pur­pose of NGA Images is “to facil­i­tate learn­ing, enrich­ment, enjoy­ment, and explo­ration,” and there’s no doubt that it sat­is­fies all of those goals and then some. You can peruse the Gallery’s most request­ed images here.


Browse the var­i­ous col­lec­tions, includ­ing one devot­ed to self-por­traits. Con­duct advanced search­es, if you’ve more knowl­edge of the Gallery’s many trea­sures. Use the “light­box arranger” to sort, store, anno­tate, and save your own per­son­al­ized col­lec­tions for future view­ing. You are the cura­tor! And the lucky ben­e­fi­cia­ry of the Nation­al Gallery’s benef­i­cence. While I can tell you from expe­ri­ence that it’s noth­ing like stand­ing face to face with these paint­ings in their in-real-life dimen­sions, tex­tures, lines, and colors—despite the throngs of dis­in­ter­est­ed tourists—it’s at least a close sec­ond. And for stu­dents and edu­ca­tors of the visu­al arts, NGA Images offers an oppor­tu­ni­ty like no oth­er to view and share great works of art often hid­den away from even the museum’s vis­i­tors. Enjoy!

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Where to Find Free Art Images & Books from Great Muse­ums, and Free Books from Uni­ver­si­ty Press­es

The Get­ty Puts 4600 Art Images Into the Pub­lic Domain (and There’s More to Come)

Google Puts Over 57,000 Works of Art on the Web

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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