If you've ever wanted to wallpaper your living room with the work of the old masters, now's your chance. The Metropolitan Museum of Art this month released an astounding 394,000 high-resolution images to the public. Visitors to the Met’s website can sort images by artist, medium, location, and era, and freely download images that are generally at least 10 megapixels in size.
The Met’s collection is one of the most extensive in the world, with more than 500 Picassos available for download, along with dozens of paintings from Monet, Van Gogh, and Degas. Aside from European painters, the collection also includes photographs of Aztec stonework, Greek sculpture, and Chinese calligraphy. Looking for an image of a 200-year old spittoon from India? It's yours.
More than 500 Picassos are now yours
Museums have traditionally been resistant to reproducing their collection, citing worries about forgery, loss of revenue, and lessening the value of the originals through cheap merchandising. The Smithsonian has more than 1.2 million images, film and audio clips available online, but many are posted at low resolution to discourage commercial use. However, as the proliferation of images-sharing sites and ventures like Google Art Project have brought more digital copies of artwork to the web, museums are starting to provide their own high-quality images to fight back against low-res knock-offs.
The images from the Met are intended for students, educators, researchers, and creators of non-commercial content. Those wanting to use one of the Met’s images for commercial reasons will still have to license them from the museum. Still, there has never been a better time to snag a gorgeous new desktop background — or to class up your apartment on the cheap. Check out the full collection here.