Art

The Art Institute of Chicago Is Sharing Thousands of Free Images

The Art Institute of Chicago’s digital library contains over 40,000 files that you can download for free

The Art Institute of Chicago has a collection of over 300,000 works of art and a history spanning back to the 19th century (having been founded by George Armour in 1879). It is one of the most important and relevant art institutions across both the United States and the world–up there with New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The collection includes works by local and international artists from early and modern times. Standout pieces include those by artists from Italian, Flemish, Dutch, and Spanish schools.

While many museums and galleries had already digitized part, if not all, of their permanent collections, The Art Institute of Chicago only made this leap more recently. Its digital library allows users to explore and download high-quality images of artworks from their collection.

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Hokusai, K. (1826–1836). Under the Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura), also known as The Great Wave, from the series "Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjurokkei). Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago is among a wave of institutions inviting us to appreciate their cultural heritage through our computer or phone screens. Even though we might find ourselves thousands of miles away from Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” we can appreciate each and every one of the dots that make up this painting while calmly studying the piece with great care. Our access to this collection isn’t limited by opening and closing times, nor do we have to queue to go inside or wait for a person standing in front of us to move out of our eyeline. These works are ours to appreciate whenever and wherever suits us.

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Seurat, G. (1884–1886). “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”. Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago.

These files aren’t limited to painting and sculpture; the collection also includes books, writing, and reference materials, most of which are available under a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means you are licensed without the need to include credits.

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Stieglitz, A. (1922). Rebecca Salsbury Strand. Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago.

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Monet, C. (1900–1903). Houses of Parliament, London. Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago.

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Guadalupe Posada, J. (1944). Calavera of Francisco Madero, from Calavera Maderista. Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago.

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Caillebotte G. (1877). Paris Street; Rainy Day. Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago.

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