free public domain art includes Monet's haystacks

Platforms for Sourcing Quality Images of Public Domain Art

9 min read

Artists and designers seek public domain art for inspiration, use in commercial projects, educational purposes, and cultural preservation. By providing such images, platforms like Artvee and the Met’s open access program play an essential role in democratizing access to art and culture—fostering collaboration, education, and creative expression on a global scale. With high-quality images of everything from ancient tablets to abstract paintings, this is our list of the best repositories of art in the public domain.

11 Excellent Repositories of High Quality Public Domain Artworks

Wikimedia Commons

Hilma af Klint, Altarpiece 1

Wikimedia Commons offers a vast repository of completely free public domain artworks, offering a diverse and extensive collection of images that span various genres, styles, and historical periods. As one of the largest freely usable media file repositories, Wikimedia Commons hosts millions of files contributed by a global community of users, including photographers, artists, institutions, and enthusiasts. In fact, it might have more images than any other repository on this list.

The platform features a wide range of public domain artworks, including paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, and more, sourced from museums, galleries, libraries, and archives around the world. Users can explore artworks from renowned artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, and many others, as well as lesser-known works by artists from diverse cultural backgrounds.

One of the notable aspects of Wikimedia Commons is its commitment to providing open access to cultural heritage. Many institutions and organizations (including the NGA in Washington D.C.) contribute to the platform by sharing high-quality images of their collections under open licenses or public domain declarations, allowing users to freely access, use, and remix these artworks for various purposes. As a general rule we recommend checking the usage rights of any images that pop up in your search results on the larger platform before you download them. Not all Wikipedia photos are in fact public domain images.

Wikimedia Commons’ collections of public domain artwork cover a broad spectrum of themes and subjects. Its open access images range from medieval illuminated manuscripts to classical masterpieces to contemporary creations. Whether users are interested in exploring art history, finding inspiration for their own creative projects, or simply enjoying visual art from different cultures and periods, Wikimedia Commons offers a wealth of resources to discover and appreciate public domain clip art.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access

Purse, British, early 17th century

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access initiative represents a groundbreaking approach to providing public access to digital images of artworks from one of the world’s most renowned cultural institutions. With over 400,000 high-resolution digital images made available for unrestricted use, The Met’s Open Access collection offers a treasure trove of artistic masterpieces spanning thousands of years and encompassing diverse cultures and civilizations.

From ancient artifacts to contemporary creations, The Met’s Open Access collection features a wide array of artworks across various mediums, including paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, textiles, photographs, and more. Users can explore iconic works by celebrated artists such as Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso, as well as discover hidden gems from lesser-known creators and cultures.

Unique Elements of The Met’s Online Collection

Untitled (Squirrels in a Chestnut Tree), Susan Catherine Moore Waters American, ca. 1875–80

What sets The Met collection initiative apart is its commitment to promoting open access and encouraging creative reuse of its digital assets. By providing high-resolution only images of artworks under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, The Met empowers individuals, educators, scholars, artists, and creators worldwide to freely access, download, share, and remix its collection for non-commercial and commercial purposes alike.

Europeana

målning, painting by Napangardi Watson, Polly, warlpiri, aboriginer – Museum of Ethnography, Sweden – CC BY., Source: https://www.europeana.eu/item/91619/SMVK_EM_objekt_1023947

Europeana is a digital platform that provides access to millions of digitized cultural heritage artifacts from across Europe. Launched by the European Union in 2008, Europeana aggregates public domain images from thousands of libraries, museums, archives, and cultural institutions, making it one of the largest online repositories of its kind.

At the heart of Europeana’s collection are its vast holdings of public domain artworks, which include paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, manuscripts, maps, and more. Users can explore artworks spanning centuries of European history and culture, from classical antiquity to the modern era, encompassing a rich tapestry of artistic styles, movements, and traditions.

Europeana’s collection of open content images reflects the diverse cultural heritage of Europe, featuring artworks from countries and regions across the continent. Users can discover iconic masterpieces by renowned artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Johannes Vermeer, and Claude Monet, as well as lesser-known works by artists from diverse cultural backgrounds.

In addition to its repository of images without copyright restrictions, Europeana encourages creative reuse of its content through initiatives like Europeana Labs. This program provides tools and resources for developers, educators, and artists to remix and repurpose cultural heritage materials for new and innovative projects.

Library of Congress

Part of Melchor Ramirez’s mural honoring Chicano activist Cesar Chavez in Arizona by Carol M. Highsmith, from the Library of Congress’ free use online repository of art

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, housing millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps, and manuscripts in its vast collections. Among its extensive holdings are thousands of public domain artworks, including historical photographs, prints, drawings, and maps.

Users can explore a rich tapestry of visual history, spanning diverse subjects and periods, from the early days of photography to the present day. The Library of Congress’s online catalog provides access to digital images of many public domain artworks, allowing users to download and use them for free in their own projects, research, or personal enjoyment.

Whether users are interested in exploring the history of American art, studying iconic images from pivotal moments in history, or simply browsing through a wealth of visual treasures, the Library of Congress offers a wealth of resources to discover and appreciate.

Getty Open Content Program

Through its Getty Open Content Program, the Getty Museum provides access to thousands of high-resolution images of artworks from its collection for free and unrestricted use. These images span a wide range of artistic styles, periods, and cultures.

Users can explore iconic masterpieces by renowned artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Leonardo da Vinci, as well as lesser-known works by emerging and underrepresented artists. The Getty’s commitment to open access and digital innovation empowers individuals, educators, scholars, and creators to freely access, download, share, and remix its collection for non-commercial and commercial purposes alike.

Art Institute of Chicago Open Access

Coronation Stone of Motecuhzoma II (Stone of the Five Suns), 503, Aztec (Mexica), Tenochtitlan, Mexico

The Art Institute of Chicago Open Access initiative grants users access to thousands of high-resolution images of artworks from its renowned collection, offering a rich and diverse selection of public domain artworks spanning centuries of artistic expression. From ancient artifacts to modern masterpieces, the collection features a wide range of mediums, including paintings, sculptures, prints, textiles, decorative arts, and more. Users can explore iconic works by celebrated artists such as Grant Wood, Georges Seurat, Mary Cassatt, and Pablo Picasso, as well as discover hidden gems from lesser-known creators and cultures.

One of the notable aspects of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Open Access initiative is its commitment to promoting open access and encouraging creative reuse of its digital assets. By providing high-quality images of artworks under open licenses, the Art Institute empowers individuals, educators, scholars, artists, and creators worldwide to freely access, download, share, and remix its collection for educational, scholarly, and creative purposes.

Whether users are conducting research, teaching, creating new artworks, or simply appreciating the beauty and diversity of human creativity, the Art Institute of Chicago Open Access collection serves as an invaluable resource and inspiration, fostering innovation, collaboration, and cultural exchange in the digital age.

Public Domain Review

Edith Wharton’s Italian Villas and their Gardens (1904)

The Public Domain Review is an online journal that curates and showcases a wide range of public domain artworks from various sources, including paintings, illustrations, photographs, and prints. Its collection spans diverse genres, styles, and historical periods, offering a rich tapestry of artistic expression and cultural heritage.

Users can explore iconic masterpieces, obscure gems, and everything in between, with a focus on uncovering overlooked and under-appreciated works from the public domain.

Fuel your creative fire & be a part of a supportive community that values how you love to live.

subscribe to our newsletter

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg primarily focuses on digitizing and providing access to public domain literature, offering a vast collection of ebooks that include novels, poetry, non-fiction, and more. While its main focus is on textual works, Project Gutenberg also hosts a small but significant collection of public domain artworks and illustrations that accompany literary texts. These artworks range from cover illustrations and frontispieces to full-page plates and decorative elements found within books.

While not as extensive as other art repositories, this website provides users with additional visual context and enhances the reading experience of classic literature. It serves as a valuable resource for those interested in exploring the intersection of art and literature and offers insight into the design and illustration practices of past eras.

The British Library Flickr Commons

The British Library Flickr Commons is a digital platform where the British Library shares thousands of public domain images from its vast collections, spanning a wide range of subjects and periods. These images include historical illustrations, maps, manuscripts, photographs, and other visual materials, offering a fascinating glimpse into various aspects of human history, culture, and knowledge.

Users can explore iconic artworks, rare manuscripts, and unique artifacts, with a particular emphasis on historical illustrations and visual documents. Whether of a painting or an artifact, each image boasts enough details to make it worthy of printing or digitally repurposing.

Artvee

Young Woman with a Water Pitcher (ca. 1662), Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632 – 1675)

Artvee is an online platform that curates and showcases a wide range of public domain artworks from various sources, making them freely available for download and use. Its collection features artworks across diverse genres, styles, and periods, including paintings, drawings, prints, and illustrations. Users can explore iconic masterpieces by renowned artists as well as lesser-known works from emerging and underrepresented creators.

With a focus on promoting open access to art and cultural heritage, Artvee provides a valuable resource for artists, designers, educators, and enthusiasts seeking inspiration, reference materials, or assets for creative projects. Its user-friendly interface and extensive collection make it easy for users to discover and engage with public domain artworks from around the world, fostering appreciation for art and culture in the digital age. Artvee is one of our favorite platforms here at DesignDash.

National Gallery of Art Open Data

Last but not least, the National Gallery of Art Open Data initiative provides access to thousands of public domain artworks from its prestigious collection, offering a comprehensive selection of paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and decorative arts. Through its open data portal, users can explore high-quality digital images of artworks, along with accompanying metadata, allowing for in-depth research, analysis, and creative exploration.

The collection spans centuries of artistic achievement, encompassing diverse styles, movements, and cultural traditions. Whether users are interested in studying the works of European masters like Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt, American luminaries such as Winslow Homer and Mary Cassatt, or lesser-known artists from around the world, the National Gallery of Art Open Data provides a wealth of resources for scholars, educators, artists, and enthusiasts alike.

How Do You Use Public Domain Images in Your Work?

Fair Emelye gathering flowers (1907), Mary Eliza Joy Haweis (English, 1848 – 1898)

Artists can use public domain art repositories in various ways to enhance their own creative work, promote cultural heritage, and explore artistic inspiration. They often use public domain artworks as references or sources of inspiration for their own creations. Artists might study the techniques, compositions, and styles of masterpieces to improve their skills or develop new ideas. Beyond searching for inspiration, artists, designers, and educators use these images in the following ways. We’d love to know how you use them, too!

Remixing and Reinterpretation

Kennet (1883), William Morris (English, 1834 – 1896)

Open access images can be remixed, reinterpreted, or incorporated into new works. Artists may blend elements from multiple sources to create something entirely original, or they might put a contemporary spin on classic themes or imagery.

Educational Purposes

These art repositories serve as valuable educational resources for artists, providing access to a wide range of historical and cultural artifacts. Artists can learn about different artistic movements, explore the work of influential artists, and deepen their understanding of art history.

Commercial Projects

Four plant form compositions 2 (1928), André Durenceau

Such images can be used in commercial projects such as book illustrations, album covers, advertising campaigns, and merchandise design. Since these works are not subject to copyright restrictions, artists can use them freely without worrying about licensing fees or legal issues.

Cultural Preservation

By incorporating public domain art into their work, artists contribute to the preservation and dissemination of cultural heritage. They help keep historical artworks alive and relevant for future generations, ensuring that they continue to inspire and influence artistic expression.