This index is a guide to the major image databases and digitised museum collections available. I have tried to include all the major databases, but it certainly isn’t exhaustive and is still skewed toward Australian, New Zealand, Europe and the US. If you know of any important or particularly useful databases that should be included please get in touch.
Where a museum offers some level of free use of their images (personal, educational, commercial etc) I have included details of copyright and reproduction rights. Another useful resource for finding free-to-use digitised collections is the Public Domain Review.
Last updated – February 2016
Galleries and Museums
Most museums and galleries now have part of their collection online, below is a list of some of the most comprehensive and useful databases.
Australia and New Zealand
Art Gallery of South Australia – collection site
Large proportion of the collection has been digitised. The collection site is divided into sections, but you can also search the entire collection here.
Art Gallery of NSW – collection site
Large proportion of the collection has been digitised. Images of artworks may be used for research and study without special permission.
Art Gallery of Western Australia – collection search
Only a small selection of the collection is currently available, with promises that more will be available in the future.
Christchurch Art Gallery/Te Puna O Waiwhetu – collection search
One of New Zealand’s major public collections. The collection ranges from British and European Art through to contemporary New Zealand, Pacific Islander and international art. Website doesn’t include any details of creative commons/free uses of digitised images.
Dunedin Public Art Gallery – collection search
A large collection of British and European Art (including Early Modern), as well as art from New Zealand. A decent collection search, with most major works digitised. Website doesn’t give any information on permitted free use of the images.
National Gallery of Australia – collection search
Large amount of the collection has been digitised. The gallery website also includes useful pages on the different areas of the collection, including essays, links to new acquisitions and links to other resources.
National Portrait Gallery – collection site
Much of the collection has been digitised but frustratingly you can only filter the ‘browse portraits’ rather than do a proper search. The keyword search is useful though.
National Gallery of Victoria – collection site
Collection is partially digitised, most major works are now avialable online. Their new (December 2015) ‘collection guide’ frustratingly only works on mobile apps and while some entries are the same, others are different. Unfortunately some of the most detailed entries can only be viewed via a mobile device, which is unhelpful when carrying out detailed research. Images on the website can be downloaded and used for personal use or for the purposes of study or research, including by Australian teachers for non-commercial educational purposes in Australian schools, universities and TAFE institutions only.
Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art QAGOMA – collection site
Large number of works have been digitised. Images may be used for private research and study without special permission.
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery – collections page
They have a collections page but no proper digitised version of their art collection online. Some decorative arts are available at the Tasmanian Colonial Decorative Arts website.
Te Papa Tongarewa/Museum of New Zealand – collection search
Collections Online has information on over 500,000 artworks, objects and specimens from Te Papa’s collections, with over 30,000 images available for download and re-use in high resolution. Over 14,000 images are available under a Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND, and another 17 000 or so are available without any restrictions.
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
They have a collection site here but as yet no digitised collection online.
Art Gallery of Ballarat – collection search
A small selection of the collection can be searched online.
Geelong Gallery – collection search
A selection of the collection can be searched online.
There are several good research databases for research inot Australian and New Zealand art and artists.
Prints and Printmaking Australia Asia Pacific is an excellent resource, well designed with many different ways of searching and browsing the database. It provides a gateway for information on printed images from Australia and the Asia Pacific region. The focus of the site is prints and printmaking by artists from Australia, Aboriginal Australia, the Torres Strait Islands, Papua New Guinea, Maori and Pakeha Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific region including New Caledonia, Nuie, Samoa, Kiribati, and the Solomon Islands. The site also includes references to prints and printmaking in China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Design & Art Australia Online (DAAO) is a collaborative e-Research tool built upon the foundations of the Dictionary of Australian Artists Online. DAAO is an open source freely accessible scholarly e-Research tool that presents biographical data about Australian artists, designers, craftspeople and curators.
Trove Australia – Picture Australia has now been absorbed into Trove. The database now includes images from Flickr groups, as well as links to the picture collections of galleries and libraries.
Find New Zealand Artists is a comprehensive index of artist names that directs researchers to the rich resources found in New Zealand’s libraries, art society exhibition histories and published sources.
Your Paintings – main site
Database of paintings from all of the UK’s public collections, from national galleries to council offices.
British Museum main website – image database.
This database has over 1.5 million objects from the collection. Including a large amount of the prints and drawings collection. The record for most items gives the full title, author, materials, date, school/style, culture, dimensions and inscriptions, a short description, bibliographic details and provenance. You can also order high quality digital images for use in personal study or for small run academic publications free of charge, they are usually emailed to you within 24 hours.
Victoria & Albert Museum main website – image database
Big database, with around 30 000 works, the image database was recently relaunched and is now easier to use with more records. Some records are minimal and may not have images but there here are also highly detailed records with high quality images. Like the BM they allow free downloads of high quality images for scholarly and non-profit use.
Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBApix)- homepage
Drawings and photographs of architecture from the RIBA collection. Images can be ordered from the site.
National Gallery London – research homepage
Recently upgraded (2015). Images are now available to download and free to use for private study and scholarly publications.
British Library – Online Gallery – Has a focus on books but also includes manuscripts, maps and books with engravings.
Dulwich Picture Gallery – homepage
Recently updated (2015). The reproductions are high quality and can be zoomed, though images can’t be downloaded, and no readily available information about image usage or permissions.
Art and Architecture UK – main site
This site has more than 40 000 images. It was set up by the Courtauld Institute of Art. It includes selections from the Courtauld’s own collections as well as images from other collections in the UK and photos of various buildings and landscapes in the UK and elsewhere. You can place orders for images through the site.
Louvre Museum Databases – homepage
Basics are in English though searches are in French. There are several databases including links to general databases for French collections: Atlas Database of exhibits (Louvre), Inventory of the Department of Prints and Drawings (Louvre), LaFayette Database of American art that entered France before 1940, Online catalogue of Coptic ceramics, Database of British Art in French Museums.
Museo del Prado, Madrid – collection search
Biblioteca Ambrosiana – Online Inventory-Catalogue of the Ambrosiana Drawings
Includes French and German drawings, as well as works by Italian artists, such as Raphael, Botticelli, Filippino Lippi, Ludovico Carracci, Guido Reni, and Guercino.
Uffizi Uffizi, Halta Definizione – This is not a database of the Uffizi collection as such (wish there was one!) but a website that has high quality images of some of the Uffizi’s best known works of art, including Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’, Caravaggio’s ‘Bacchus, Bronzino’s ‘Portrait of Eleonara di Toledo’, and others. You can zoom very close and the site also shows measurements.
US and Canada
Metropolitan Museum, New York – collection database
The Frick Collection – collection database.
The Frick also provides access to the Archives Directory for the History of Collecting in America and The Montias Database of 17th Century Dutch Art Inventories.
The Getty Museum – photo study collection
Range of ancient to twentieth-century art and design. Also includes several photography collections.
ArtSTOR (you will need to have access via an institutional subscription) – homepage
ARTstor is a not-for-profit digital library of more than one million images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and social sciences with a suite of software tools to view, present, and manage images for research and pedagogical purposes.
Web Gallery of Art – main site
A database of European painting and sculpture from 11th to mid-19th centuries. Images quality is looking a bit dated these days but still a useful reference for hard-to-find images. Images can be downloaded and used for personal study or teaching.
Catena Digital Archive – main site
This site is run by the Bard Graduate Center and provides high quality images which include modern and historical photos of gardens as well as images of prints or rare books. It has a particular focus on Italian gardens. You can either search or browse. You need to register and use specific software to view images. (The search on the Catena site no longer seems to work but you can still access the images via Luna Imaging here).
Joconde – homepage
Catalogue of the collections of the museums of France, including the Louvre (but also see the Louvre specific databases above as they are not entirely integrated).
Luna Imaging – homepage
Various digitised collections. Includes Americana, poster collections, historical maps, early books etc.
Artcyclopedia – homepage
A basic but useful search that allows you to search by artist and provides links to their works of art in various collections.
Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture: Image and Text Collections – homepage
Includes images and reproductions of early printed books. Focus on early America as well as European resources.
African and Asian Visual Artist’s Archive – homepage
Beinecke Rare Books, Manuscripts, Photographs and Art (Yale University) – Digital Image Library
Search for photographs, textual documents, illuminated manuscripts, maps, works of art, and books from the Beinecke’s collections. Includes digital images of Italian Renaissance Festival books, Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, fifth-century hand-painted tarot cards, photographs of 19th century China, posters from France in 1968, posters and ephemera from the World’s Fairs and much more.
Digitaler Porträtindex – homepage
A project initiated at the Deutsche Dokumentationszentrum für Kunstgeschichte – Bildarchiv Foto Marburg in cooperation with seven public institutions (museums and libraries in Germany and Austria): ‘Digitaler Porträtindex druckgraphischer Bildnisse der Frühen Neuzeit’ (‘Digital Index of Printed Portraits of the Early Modern Period’). (Website in German).
Islamic Manuscripts – homepage
A guide to Islamic manuscripts online from different collections.
These companies will license images of art for publications and other uses. These days they are more of a last resort, the image database of the museum that holds the work is always the best place to go for images and for licensing (especially for academic publications). That said, many images in private collections, small museums or from historical photo archives can be found via these companies.
Art Resource – homepage Art Resource is the worlds largest fine art stock photo archive, licensing authorized images to all media.
Bildarchiv fuer Kunst und Architektur, Marburg – homepage German site with about 2 million images of art and architecture in 13 European countries (Site in German).
Alinari Archive – homepage The Alinari archive has a catalogue of over 260,000 pictures available to professionals who use photographs and pictures, both in traditional and in multimedia publishing.
Scala Archives – homepage This archive has works of art from all over the world, covering every age and every field of visual arts (painting, sculpture, architecture, archaeology, the ancient & the modern world, decorative arts, photography, design, fashion etc.) has a focus on Italy. Images can be ordered for publication/media use as well as low resolution images for non-commercial use.
Bridgeman Art Library – homepage
Commercial image provider. Includes images from over 8,000 collections and more than 29,000 artists. Some hard-to-find images are available through Bridgeman.