Sources for Images
The following list is compiled from responses to a request for names of websites that offer free digital images to be used for educational (non-commercial) purposes. The responses are from members of the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) Listserv, October 23, 2013. They have not been identified for reasons of privacy. The contributions have been slightly edited, and there are some duplications. It has not been thoroughly vetted for accuracy or relevance, as it was thrown together quickly from the replies. As one contributor noted in #9 below, read the fine print to make sure the image is indeed “free”: “One thing I always have hesitations about, in these lists we call “free” or “open” image sources, is that when I read the fine print on the museum sites there are often qualifications. Even Creative Commons licenses depend on the uploader in fact having copyright ownership of what s/he is uploading. There are Picasso paintings on Flickr with the photographer (not Picasso) giving an open access license.”
The Rijksmuseum offers high-res digital downloads free for non-commercial use. https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio
LACMA has about 20,000 high-res digital downloads for any use. http://collections.lacma.org/
Yale Digital Commons has 250,000 images “without license.” http://discover.odai.yale.edu/ydc/
Wikimedia Commons tries to aggregate a number of institutions’ free content. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page
The National Gallery of Art offers high-res downloads for non-commercial use.
Almost everything in the Flickr Commons is downloadable. http://www.flickr.com/commons/
A compilation of sources from Brown University. The list is annotated and includes notes when images are freely available: https://sites.google.com/a/brown.edu/resources-in-art-and-architecture-on-the-web/image-resources/image-resources-vendors-museums-etc
University of Colorado, Boulder:
http://cuart.colorado.edu/resources/vrc/find/ (scroll down to the “Find Images Elsewhere on the Web”)
NGA Images (National Gallery of Art in Washington DC)
LACMA unrestricted images collection:
The Walters Art Museum
The British Museum Free Non-Commercial Use Images:
UCLA : You might also find some use in the Creative Commons, Open Content, & Public Domain images tab of my Image Resources research guide at: http://guides.library.ucla.edu/content.php?pid=126509&sid=4342604.
Currier Museum of Art: A quick resource guide for fair use images here: http://currierartlibrary.wordpress.com/databases/image-collections/
Art Institute of Chicago Ryerson and Burnham Libraries. Another great resource for digital images
Getty Open Content Program: High resolution images of works from the GettyMuseum and Getty Research Institute that are in the public domain and may be used freely.
The Getty Research Institute recently added 5,400 images to the Open Content Program.
Sorry if these are redundant, but my recollection is that the following (plus Yale) were some of the early pioneers in making their images openly available, so I like to give them a cheer:
Los AngelesCountyMuseum of Art
Victoria & Albert
CAA (College Art Association) is also keeping a list at
One thing I always have hesitations about, in these lists we call “free” or “open” image sources, is that when I read the fine print on the museum sites there are often qualifications. Even Creative Commons licenses depend on the uploader in fact having copyright ownership of what s/he is uploading. There are Picasso paintings on Flickr with the photographer (not Picasso) giving an open access license.
10. [added 25th October – ed.]
Artsy is another free source for images, some of which are downloadable and in the public domain: http://artsy.net/post/christine-downloading-images-on-artsy.
Constance & George Fearing Library
Santa Barbara Museum of Art www.sbma.net
1130 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA93101
Library open to the public Tue, Wed, Thu 1-5 PM;
Librarian’s hours 10-noon; 1-5:30 on those days.