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Art and Art Education: Image Resources

This guide will help find resources with an art or art education emphasis

Image Resources on the Web

The sites below offer excellent images for research in art and art history and are especially good for illustrating a research paper or creating a class presentation. See the Web Resources tab for many other resources.

African & Asian Visual Artists Archive -- A comprehensive archive of contemporary visual art by artists of African and Asian descent working in the UK since the post-war period. The archive houses over 6,000 slides of artworks and exhibitions, as well as publications and videos about and by artists.  There are over 200 individual artist folders, as well as curators, art historians, cultural critics and arts organization files. 

American Memory Project -- Created by the Library of Congress, American Memory is a gateway to rich primary source materials relating to the history and culture of the United States. The site offers more than 7 million digital items from more than 100 historical collections.

Art Images for College Teaching -- AICT is a personal, non-profit project of its author, art historian and visual resources curator Allan T. Kohl. AICT is intended primarily to disseminate images of art and architectural works in the public domain on a free-access, free-use basis to all levels of the educational community, as well as to the public at large. The collection focuses on ancient, medieval, and Renaissance European art and architecture.

Bridgeman Art Library -- Excellent image database containing images from over 8,000 collections and more than 29,000 artists, Bridgeman provides a central source of fine art and historical images for users. Based in London but focus is international in scope.

Visual Arts Data Service (VADS) -- A well-designed site with focus on fashion, craft, 2D design, and contemporary artists working in the UK and internationally. Repository for many specail collections in the UK.

Web Gallery of Art -- WGA is a virtual museum and searchable database of European painting and sculpture from 11th to mid-19th centuries. Content focuses on the Renaissance period, the Medieval roots of the period and its evolution to Baroque and Rococo via Mannerism. More recently Neoclassicism, Romanticism and Realism were also included.

 Cybermuse -- National Gallery of Canada's hosts its permanent collection of Canada's visual arts heritage. This virtual museum contains over 20,000 images of works of the Gallery's permanent collection as well as video and audio recordings of Canadian artists.

Flickr Commons Project -- The Commons Project is a collection of medium and high resolution imagery contributed from archives around the world, including the US National Archives, OSU's Archives, NYPL's Archives, and many many more. The photos contributed to this have no known copyright restrictions. Read more here. However, many of these images explicitly state they are for educational use only, and some state they may not be modified (ex: Smithsonian). Read the rights statement to be sure what you can and cannot do with these images before using them.

Creative Commons -- The Creative Commons is a way for digital content creators to license their work for use by others online. There are multiple creative commons licenses. The pdf attached to this page lists and explains these licenses.

Every Stock Photo -- Search engine for free stock photos licensed under Creative Commons, public domain, GNU, or custom free licenses.

MorgueFile -- Free high resolution images for personal or commercial use, under this license. You can filter your search by size, color, geotag, and more. From the site: The purpose of this site is to provide free image reference material for illustrators, comic book artist, designers, teachers and all creative pursuits.

Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Collection -- The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog offers digital images of much of the Prints and Photographs Division’s holdings including architecture, design and engineering, among other categories.

Google Art Project -- From the Google Art Project web site: "
The Art Project is a collaboration between Google and 151 acclaimed art partners from across 40 countries. Using a combination of various Google technologies and expert information provided by our museum partners, we have created a unique online art experience. Users can explore a wide range of artworks at brushstroke level detail, take a virtual tour of a museum and even build their own collections to share. With a team of Googlers working across many product areas we are able to harness the best of Google to power the Art Project experience. Few people will ever be lucky enough to be able to visit every museum or see every work of art they’re interested in but now many more can enjoy over 30 000 works of art from sculpture to architecture and drawings and explore over 150 collections from 40 countries, all in one place. We’re also lucky at Google to have the technology to make this kind of project a reality."


Selected Image Sites with use licenses

 20,000+ images. There are two drop-down menus (one for textures, one for images) for category browsing. Imageafter allows you to use their images on printed material for resale.

Access the California State University IMAGE Project, containing 60,000+ images. Global in coverage and includes all areas of visual imagery, its images may be freely used for non-profit educational purposes.

The photos on Imagebase are free to use, and are licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Owned by Getty Images, 350,000+ stock images for use, keyword searchable. Non-commercial use only.

Free Use Group on Flickr
1200+ random images contributed by Flickr users available for unrestricted use.


The ARTstor Digital Library is one of the premiere image databases for research in art and art historical topics. It includes more than 80 collections of over one million images. The collections are gathered from a wide variety of museums, research collections, artists and artists’ estates, library special collections, and photo archives. Content includes images from the fields of art, architecture, material culture, maritime history, anthropology, and archeology.  The collection is available for non-commercial and educational use only through the Val Browning Library.

ARTstor is not only a rich digital library of art images and descriptive information, but also provides software tools to enable active use of the collections. ARTstor's search interface allows users to view and analyze images through features such as zooming and panning, saving groups of images online for personal or shared uses, and creating and delivering presentations both online and offline.

Help in using ARTstor is available at http://help.artstor.org/wiki/index.php/ARTstor_Help_Topics.


Selected Public Domain and Government Image Sites

The BLM Image Library
More than 60,000 images of public lands, mostly in 12 Western states, including Alaska. A special collection maintained by the BLM’s National Operations Center includes 3,600 historical photos dating back to the early surveys of the West.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Image Gallery (large) Includes direct links to the NASA Image Exchange, the Dryden Image Gallery, the Kennedy Multimedia Gallery, the Earth Observatory, Great Images in NASA (GRIN), and the Planetary Photojournal

US Army Images
Images in this database are in the public domain. Users should credit by : courtesy of US Army / photographer if available

U.S. Department of Defense Image Collections
public domain downloads available on many subjects including military leaders and official graphics. Credit photographer or Department of Defense.

Public Domain Images Site (3500+ images) From the site: "All pictures are explicitly placed in the public domain. You can use all public domain pictures (public domain wallpapers) from this site for whatever you want, use it freely for personal and commercial use."

Public Health Image Library (PHIL)-- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a searchable database of photographs, micrographs and illustrations relating to public health. Most images are public domain, some are copyrighted and require permission for use

Copyright & Fair Use

Christian Boltanski, Reliquaire, 1990. Image courtesy of ARTstor.

Images are integral to art scholarship and greatly enhance presentations and learning on visual topics. Be sure you understand the concept of "fair use" before you use or repurpose images into your work.

Fair use is generally defined as the allowance to use copyrighted material in a fair manner without obtaining permission from the copyright holder. For educational purposes (research papers, classroom presentations, etc.) always cite the original work! This may take the form of in–text citations, a references page, an addendum to presentation, etc. If you are planning to use your work beyond the classroom (educational), on the web, for commercial (for-profit) purposes, etc., you should obtain permission from the copyright holder for all copyrighted works used in your work (including derivative uses); not obtaining permission is a violation of US copyright.

There are four factors that impact the justification for Fair Use (Section 107 of US Copyright Law).

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes. This refers to:

Whether the work is for educational use, whether there is profit from the use of the work, whether the use is credited (cited), level of access to the work, whether the use is for criticism, commentary, or news reporting, how derivative the use of the work is.

2. The nature of the copyrighted work. This refers to:

Whether the work is published, how creative the original work is, whether the work is fiction or non-fiction.

3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. This refers to:

How much of the original work is used, how important the portion used is to the original work.

4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. This refers to:

Whether the use will impede or prevent the copyright holder from profiting from their work.

A good rule of thumb is to check a website for specific guidelines on permissions. Websites with image content that is copyrighted will usually state the parameters that they consider fair use for their content. Read this information to better understand how to cite the content you are using. Again, always cite your sources.

This page was adapted from the site on Visual Resources developed by Dan McClure and Tricia Juettemeyer at: http://sites.google.com/site/budgetvr/