100,000 Free Art History Texts Now Available Online Thanks to the Getty Research Portal

paul klee getty portal

“I have always imag­ined that Par­adise will be a kind of library,” Jorge Luis Borges famous­ly wrote. Were he alive today, he might well regard the inter­net as becom­ing more par­a­disi­a­cal all the time, at least in the sense that it keeps not just gen­er­at­ing new texts, but absorb­ing exist­ing ones and mak­ing them avail­able free to read­ers.

And while his well-known sto­ry “The Library of Babel” envi­sions a mag­i­cal or extreme­ly high-tech library con­tain­ing all pos­si­ble texts (which the inter­net has start­ed to make a real­i­ty), recent addi­tions to the vast library of the inter­net have done him one bet­ter by incor­po­rat­ing not just pages of let­ters, but intri­cate­ly designed and lav­ish­ly illus­trat­ed art texts as well.

raven matisse

Take the Get­ty Research Por­tal, which has just, for its fourth anniver­sary, unveiled a new design and a total vol­ume count sur­pass­ing 100,000. “In assem­bling a vir­tu­al cor­pus of dig­i­tized texts on art, archi­tec­ture, mate­r­i­al cul­ture, and relat­ed fields from numer­ous part­ners, the Por­tal aspires to offer a more expan­sive col­lec­tion than any sin­gle library could pro­vide,” writes project con­tent spe­cial­ist Annie Rana at the Get­ty’s blog The Iris. “Fur­ther­more, with these freely down­load­able mate­ri­als, schol­ars and researchers can now be in pos­ses­sion of copies of rare books and oth­er titles with­out hav­ing to trav­el to far-flung locales.”

OC Getty Portal Kandinsky

More than twen­ty insti­tu­tions now share their col­lec­tions at the Get­ty Research Por­tal: recent join­ers include the Art Insti­tute of Chicago’s Ryer­son and Burn­ham Libraries, the Bib­lio­the­ca Hertziana-Max Planck Insti­tute for Art His­to­ry in Rome, the Her­zog August Bib­lio­thek in Wolfen­büt­tel, the Menil Library Col­lec­tion in Hous­ton, the Solomon R. Guggen­heim Muse­um Library and Archives in New York, and the War­burg Insti­tute Library in Lon­don. But wait, says Rana, there’s more, or at least more on the way: “Dia­logues with art libraries and insti­tu­tions in India, Iran, and Japan are in the works as the project also looks to increase inter­na­tion­al cov­er­age.”

OC Getty Portal The Building in Japan

Still, the selec­tion of items looks quite inter­na­tion­al already. The post high­lights a few items of high poten­tial inter­est to Open Cul­ture read­ers, such as Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven illus­trat­ed by Edouard Manet and trans­lat­ed into French by Stéphane Mal­lar­mé, as well as a mono­graph on, an exhi­bi­tion cat­a­log about the work of, and writ­ings by the Russ­ian abstract painter and art the­o­rist Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky. But even though the Get­ty Research Por­tal seems only to have plans to grow larg­er and larg­er, every­one brows­ing through it will sure­ly find some­thing suit­ed to their artis­tic inter­ests, from Paul Klee (top) to Roy Licht­en­stein to Japan­ese archi­tec­ture and every­thing in between; you have only to step through the por­tal to find it.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1.8 Mil­lion Free Works of Art from World-Class Muse­ums: A Meta List of Great Art Avail­able Online

815 Free Art Books from World Class Muse­ums: The Met, the Guggen­heim, the Get­ty & LACMA

Down­load 448 Free Art Books from The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art

The Guggen­heim Puts 109 Free Mod­ern Art Books Online

Down­load Over 250 Free Art Books From the Get­ty Muse­um

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

Read Free Dig­i­tal Art Cat­a­logues from 9 World-Class Muse­ums, Thanks to the Pio­neer­ing Get­ty Foun­da­tion

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

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Eulalia says:

    Has the author nev­er made it to the end of Borges’s sto­ry, or is he try­ing to insult the project under­hand­ed­ly? From the foot­notes: “Letizia Álvarez de Tole­do has observed that this vast Library is use­less.” Not to men­tion the sui­cides.

  • Dr Klaus Graf says:

    Not only a few works are’nt avail­able out­side the US because of the HathiTrust copy­right para­noia, see e.g.


    This is the Google Books mov­ing wall (free only until 1875 in 2016) ignor­ing Europe’s Pub­lic Domain even if the author’s death longer than 7ß years ago is record­ed in HathiTrust’s meta­da­ta.

    HathiTrust does­n’t review such cas­es actu­al­ly (some years ago it did on request).

    I have con­tact­ed Get­ty (and the uni­ver­si­ty library Hei­del­berg) on this prob­lem of course in 2012, see also


    With­out any suc­cess. I am dis­ap­point­ed that openculture.com is’nt con­sid­er­ing the ongo­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion of Non-US schol­ars even for world­wide PD titles!

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