The world of fine arts has long been accused of its old-fashioned ways. At the beginning of almost every major art movement – Impressionism, Abstraction, Pop Art – was a push against the traditions of the well-known museums and salons.
Now, at least in Paris, the museums seem to be embracing modernity with open arms as they announced an exciting update in the first week of 2020.
Paris Musees is the public institution responsible for uploading 321,178 works of art to their online database, making over 150,000 of them available for download and part of the public domain.
The organization oversees 14 of Paris’ elite art museums including Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Petit Palais, and the Catacombs which means they’re privy to some of the most iconic art the world has ever seen.
So, how does this online database of art actually work?
For the purposes of education, study, or sheer enjoyment, you can view these 321,178 pieces of art that are now on the Paris Musee website. By being able to see the brushstrokes, details, and clear depiction of the work, it’s a great tool for anyone who wants to see the best version of the art online.
Only about 150,000 of those pieces are available for download but they haven’t skimped on the quality there either. Your downloads will be in impeccable 300 DPI high definition to include in your research, lectures, publications, and more.
Essentially, if the piece is public domain under a Creative Commons Zero license, they’re available to be downloaded via the database.
As of right now, only 2D works of art are available including paintings, photographs, and coins. So for sculptures and furniture, you’ll still have to make your way to Paris to see what’s in the Paris Musee’s collection for those kinds of pieces.
Masterpieces from the likes of Paul Cezanne, Rembrandt, Eugene Delacroix, and countless others will be available online like never before.
Feast your eyes on Cezanne’s sweeping brushstrokes in his portrait of the French art dealer Ambroise Vollard. It bears his signature style and the details are unparalleled in the Paris Musees’ high-quality image of the piece.
Paul Cézanne, “Portrait d’Ambroise Vollard” (1899), oil on canvas, from the collection of Petit Palais, Paris (CC0 Paris Musées / Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, Petit Palais)
Photographs from the likes of artists such as Eugene Atget are also available on the database. You can study his famous photos of Paris that immortalizes the city in its past glory. For example, in “Coin des rues de Seine et de l’Echaude, 6eme arrondissement, Paris” from 1911, Atget’s radical use of photography is pronounced and, quite frankly, stunning.
And what about all the other works of art that aren’t part of this new online database? Well, you’ll still be able to view them online, but you won’t be able to get your hands on a high-resolution download. The same goes for 2D material still under copyright barriers.
Another exciting innovation to come out of Paris Musees is the fact that they’ll be hosting online virtual exhibitions using their new database. So, not only can people use the downloadable art in their projects, educational materials, and publications, but they’ll also be able to learn about important works as if they were attending an actual museum or gallery in Paris.
It’s such an incredible way to use the internet and it’s sharing power to bring people together and encourage a love of art. Who knows what this transition to the digital world will mean for the art scene – but things look promising.
Why It’s a Big Deal
In the Paris Musees’ press release, it was mentioned that the institution receives an incredibly high volume of requests, mostly from students and educators, hoping to view or utilize the art that lives in its collections.
Not to mention, unless you live in Europe, it’s not often that art lovers get the chance to visit Paris. The Paris Musees saw an opportunity to provide a virtual catalog of art where you can actually view the piece.
In other words, they felt it was time to release high-quality copies onto the internet for people to actually study and enjoy – versus peering at a blurry or distorted online version of the work.
As we’ve touched on previously, students, researchers, art enthusiasts, and publishers are likely to be the main demographics who will benefit from this incredible database.
Students of art history, art composition, and even religious studies can benefit immensely from the Paris Musees collections becoming available online in high definition. You can study the pieces up close, inspecting the finer details, and experience the piece in its true colors. Researchers can do the same.
Publishers who host websites like ours are also celebrating these works of art coming online and into the public domain. It means our pages can be filled with higher quality images so our readers can get a better sense of the art we’re exploring.
And last but not least, art enthusiasts who find deep joy in great art are sure to be in heaven at the prospect of these virtual exhibitions. It will give people from all walks of life the chance to appreciate and become inspired by the art collections of the Paris Musees. Who knows – perhaps the initiative will create a whole new community of art enthusiasts online.
Of course, there’s nothing like actually seeing a painting or photograph live in the flesh. There’s something about seeing the canvas that the artist him or herself worked on and it seems that the Paris Musees understood this as well.
Uploading some of their collection to a free online database doesn’t devalue the real thing. If anything, it’ll get more people all over the world interested and inspired by great art. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
The Paris Musees new online database truly seems like the next best thing to visiting their museums in person and it’s sure to open new doors to art lovers all around the world.