The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Puts Online 90,000 Works of Modern Art

three women by leger

Ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry mod­ernism often seems to come out of nowhere, espe­cial­ly when our expo­sure to it comes in the form of a sur­vey of sin­gu­lar great works. Each sculp­ture, film, or paint­ing can seem sui gener­is, as though left by an alien civ­i­liza­tion for us to find and admire.

But when you spend a great deal more time with mod­ern art—looking over artists’ entire body of work and see­ing how var­i­ous schools and indi­vid­u­als devel­oped together—it becomes appar­ent that all art, even the most rad­i­cal or strange, evolves in dia­logue with art, and that no artist works ful­ly in iso­la­tion.

Monet Japanese Footbridge 1920

Take, for exam­ple, Monet’s Japan­ese Foot­bridge, above, from 1920. It’s a scene from his gar­den the ear­ly impres­sion­ist had paint­ed many times over the decades. In this, one of his final paint­ings of the bridge, we see a riot of reds, oranges, and yel­lows in ges­tur­al brush­strokes that almost obscure the scene entire­ly. Though we know Mon­et had fail­ing eye­sight due to cataracts, a con­di­tion that lead to the vivid col­ors he saw in this peri­od, it’s hard not to see some homage to Van Gogh, upon whose work Monet’s had a tremen­dous influ­ence.

Lake George, Coat and Red

Above, we have Geor­gia O’Keeffe’s Lake George, Coat and Red from 1919, which abstracts the vivid patch­es of col­or char­ac­ter­is­tic of Edouard Manet’s work and the fau­vism of Hen­ri Matisse, both of whom great­ly influ­enced Amer­i­can mod­ernists like O’Keeffe, Edward Hop­per, and Charles Demuth. These paint­ings reside at the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art in New York (MoMA), along with many thou­sands more that show us the devel­op­ment and inter­re­la­tion­ship of mod­ern art in Europe and Amer­i­ca. And you can see close to half of them, whether they’re on dis­play or not, at the MoMA’s dig­i­tal col­lec­tion.


This online col­lec­tion hous­es 90,000 works of art in all, to be pre­cise. You can see, for exam­ple, Gior­gio de Chirico’s The Song of Love, above, a typ­i­cal paint­ing for the sur­re­al­ist that shows how much influ­ence he had on the lat­er Sal­vador Dali, who was only ten years old at the time of this work. At the top of the post, Fer­nand Leg­er’s Three Women, from 1921, shows the futur­ist and lat­er pop art French painter in con­ver­sa­tion with Picas­so and Hen­ri Rousseau.


In oth­er instances, we see works that seem anom­alous in an artist’s canon, such as Marc Chagall’s 1912 Cal­vary, above. Known for his depic­tions of folk­lore and urban Jew­ish life, this ear­ly work from the same year as The Fid­dler (the inspi­ra­tion for Fid­dler on the Roof) shows a much more pol­ished cubist style, and a sub­ject mat­ter that antic­i­pates his “dark­er” cru­ci­fix­ion series dur­ing and after World War II. To begin search­ing the MoMA’s col­lec­tion of 90,000 online works, you can begin here with a wide vari­ety of para­me­ters. To browse the col­lec­tion of ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry mod­ernists in which I found these amaz­ing works, start here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free: The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art and the Guggen­heim Offer 474 Free Art Books Online

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

The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art Puts 400,000 High-Res Images Online & Makes Them Free to Use

Down­load 100,000 Free Art Images in High-Res­o­lu­tion from The Get­ty

Muse­um of Mod­ern Art (MoMA) Launch­es Free Course on Look­ing at Pho­tographs as Art

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


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  • josep Nyebit says:

    Strange com­ments. Mod­ernism out of nowhere? Alien civ­i­liza­tion? Late­ly I have seen lots of evi­dences that (neo)americans are as far from euro­peans as eski­mos from hoten­totes. I won­der how can it be, but, in fact, does it mat­ter much? any­way.….

  • Basti Solanki says:


  • GARTEL says:

    Curi­ous. How did the Dig­i­tal Art age begin any­way? Nobody in the Art World ever talks about the trace evi­dence. They missed the last 40 years some­how. — LG ))))))

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