Visit 2+ Million Free Works of Art from 20 World-Class Museums Free Online

Rosetta Stone

Since the first stirrings of the internet, artists and curators have puzzled over what the fluidity of online space would do to the experience of viewing works of art. At a conference on the subject in 2001, Susan Hazan of the Israel Museum wondered whether there is “space for enchantment in a technological world?” She referred to Walter Benjamin’s ruminations on the “potentially liberating phenomenon” of technologically reproduced art, yet also noted that “what was forfeited in this process were the ‘aura’ and the authority of the object containing within it the values of cultural heritage and tradition.” Evaluating a number of online galleries of the time, Hazan found that “the speed with which we are able to access remote museums and pull them up side by side on the screen is alarmingly immediate.” Perhaps the “accelerated mobility” of the internet, she worried, “causes objects to become disposable and to decline in significance.”


Fifteen years after her essay, the number of museums that have made their collections available online whole, or in part, has grown exponentially and shows no signs of slowing. We may not need to fear losing museums and libraries—important spaces that Michel Foucault called “heterotopias,” where linear, mundane time is interrupted. These spaces will likely always exist. Yet increasingly we need never visit them in person to view most of their contents. Students and academics can conduct nearly all of their research through the internet, never having to travel to the Bodleian, the Beinecke, or the British Library. And lovers of art must no longer shell out for plane tickets and hotels to see the precious contents of the Getty, the Guggenheim, or the Rijksmuseum. For all that may be lost, online galleries have long been “making works of art widely available, introducing new forms of perception in film and photography and allowing art to move from private to public, from the elite to the masses.”


Even more so than when Hazan wrote those words, the online world offers possibilities for “the emergence of new cultural phenomena, the virtual aura.” Over the years we have featured dozens of databases, archives, and online galleries through which you might virtually experience art the world over, an experience once solely reserved for only the very wealthy. And as artists and curators adapt to a digital environment, they find new ways to make virtual galleries enchanting. The vast collections in the virtual galleries listed below await your visit, with close to 2,000,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, books, and more. See the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum (top), courtesy of the Google Cultural Institute. See Van Gogh’s many self-portraits and vivid, swirling landscapes at The Van Gogh Museum. Visit the Asian art collection at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries. Or see Vassily Kandinsky’s dazzling abstract compositions at the Guggenheim.

And below the list of galleries, find links to online collections of several hundred art books to read online or download. Continue to watch this space: We’ll add to both of these lists as more and more collections come online.

Art Images from Museums & Libraries

Art Books

Related Contents:

Download 448 Free Art Books from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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

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

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

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Comments (8)
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  • AlexO says:

    Too many! The internet seems unlimited. Time isn’t. ;-)

  • Victoria says:

    Auckland Museum, NZ (60,000)

  • Allene King says:

    I need o see some paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe for a project. How do I do a search? He one at the top of the page is not working for me

  • Dorothy Shinn says:

    And yet, nothing can compare to the impact of the actual work of art seen in person. An image on a computer screen tells us nothing about size, texture, dimensionality, current condition or physical presence of the art work. The internet is merely a tool, not a substitute for personal experience.

  • Ian Graves says:

    I am a young teenager no money but would like to know more about I love to draw and am really good( my Dad and Aunt says so). My Dad went to art college in Toronto and my aunt is an artist, still taking lessons from a wonderful marine artist of many years
    I need to get into an artist community and find my niche and need some inspiration .
    Ian graves

  • Kim Benz says:

    This is correct.
    Only the most lucky and can have this experience of personal viewing
    yet… even the internet image does have impact when viewed. This is times of which we live, this is what most people in the world get.
    I lived in Chicago, and experencinced face to face incredible art many years of my life. Your comment rang so true to me.


    i need this book from free download

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