Much of the world's great artwork is tightly controlled, but the Getty Museum just announced a significant initiative to open things up — its new Open Content Program has made some 4,600 pieces of art from the museum's collection free to use. Users can visit the Getty Search Gateway to browse through the entire collection of high-resolution images, and they can all be used for commercial and non-commercial purposes so long as they're properly attributed to the museum. When downloading an image, the site also asks for you to share why you're using it — so the museum can see why people are downloading its content.

Amongst the many freely available pieces of art released by Getty are a number of quite famous images, including work by Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Leonardo da Vinci.  The 4,600 pieces of artwork available are just the beginning, as well. Getty says that it's actively exploring the possibility of releasing much more art into the public domain, both from the museum's collection as well as materials from the Getty Research Institute's special collections. While Getty isn't the first museum to push forward with an open artwork initiative (the museum cited a number of institutions like the Walters Art Museum as inspirations for the movement), it's the latest example of how the internet is making classic, famous works more accessible.

Image credit:

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853 - 1890)
Irises, 1889, Oil on canvas
Unframed: 71.1 x 93 cm (28 x 36 5/8 in.)
Framed: 95.3 x 115.6 x 7.9 cm (37 1/2 x 45 1/2 x 3 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles