Free: Download 10,000+ Master Drawings from The Morgan Library & Museum’s Online Collection

It’s hard for the casu­al brows­er to know where to begin with a col­lec­tion as vast as the mas­ter draw­ings belong­ing to the Mor­gan Library & Muse­um.

The Library’s Draw­ings Online pro­gram gives the pub­lic free access to over 10,000 down­load­able images, drawn pri­mar­i­ly from—and in—the fif­teenth through nine­teenth cen­turies. Many images are fleshed out with inscrip­tions, infor­ma­tion on prove­nance, bio­graph­i­cal sketch­es of the artist, and, in over 2000 instances, images of the ver­so, or flip side of the paper.

Researchers and sim­i­lar­ly informed seek­ers can browse by artist or school, but what if you don’t quite know what you want?

You could tour the high­lights, or bet­ter yet, bush­whack your way into the unknown by enter­ing a ran­dom word or phrase into the “search draw­ings” func­tion.

Know­ing that the inter­net is crazy for cats, I made that my first search term, but the results were skewed by an 18th-cen­tu­ry Dutch artist named Jacob Cats, whose work abounds with cows and sheep.

Car­i­ca­tur­ist Al Hirschfeld’s por­trait of Kath­leen Turn­er in the 1990 Broad­way revival of Ten­nessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof  is unavail­able for view­ing due to copy­right restric­tions. (It’s eas­i­ly view­able else­where…)

And the Where’s Wal­do-esque excite­ment I felt upon an anony­mous artist’s Moun­tain Land­scape with Ital­ian-Style Clois­ter faux-Bruegel dis­si­pat­ed when I real­ized this return owed more to the abbre­vi­a­tion of “cat­a­logue” than any feline lurk­ing in the pen-and-ink trees.

Next I entered the word “babies.” I’m not sure why. There cer­tain­ly were a lot of them, almost as many as I encounter on Face­book.

Return­ing to the pre-select­ed high­lights page, I resolved to let the experts pick for me. I saw a charm­ing rab­bit fam­i­ly by John James Audubon and the old favorite by William Blake, top, but what real­ly grabbed me was the first page’s final selec­tion: Hon­oré Daumier’s Two Lawyers Con­vers­ing, cir­ca 1862.

Part of the Mor­gan’s recent­ly closed Drawn to Great­ness: Mas­ter Draw­ings from the Thaw Col­lec­tion exhib­it, the sub­jects’ dress may be archa­ic, but their expres­sions are both humor­ous and ever­green. Lawyer. I had my search term.

My favorite of the sev­en search results is illus­tra­tor Edmund J. Sul­li­van’s Soumin an’ Roumin from 1914. One of a dozen or so draw­ings Sul­li­van made for an updat­ed edi­tion of George Out­ram’s Legal and Oth­er Lyrics, it shows “an old woman in a farm­yard sur­round­ed by live­stock flee­ing three mon­strous lawyers wear­ing wigs and robes and armed with hideous talons instead of hands and feet. One … chas­es a cow with a scourge, the thongs of which end in scor­pi­ons.”

Down­load that one for all your lawyer friends or your lawyer spouse… upload it to a t‑shirt if you’re crafty.

Claud Lovat Fras­er’s set design for Per­gole­si’s short com­ic opera La Ser­va Padrona (or The Maid Turned Mis­tress) at the Lyric Ham­mer­smith doesn’t depict any lawyers, to the best of my knowl­edge, but he him­self was one—also a car­i­ca­tur­ist, lam­poon­ing the lit­er­ary and the­atri­cal lumi­nar­ies of his day, and a sol­dier whose life was cut short due to expo­sure to gas in World War I.

In addi­tion to the Morgan’s par­tic­u­lar­ly well-fleshed-out artist bio for this work, the ver­so is a treat in the form of a print­ed announce­ment for the Chelsea Arts Club Cos­tume Ball.

Browse the Mor­gan Library & Museum’s Draw­ings Online in its entire­ty here, or nar­row it down by artist, School of Art, or per­son­al whim.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

300+ Etch­ings by Rem­brandt Now Free Online, Thanks to the Mor­gan Library & Muse­um

The British Library Puts 1,000,000 Images into the Pub­lic Domain, Mak­ing Them Free to Reuse & Remix

Down­load 2,500 Beau­ti­ful Wood­block Prints and Draw­ings by Japan­ese Mas­ters (1600–1915)

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

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her New York City  on Feb­ru­ary 8, when she hosts Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain, a vari­ety show born of a sin­gle musty vol­ume — this month: Mas­ter­pieces in Colour, Bas­ten-Lep­age. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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