VIRTUALLY VISITING THE GREATEST ART

MUSEUMS

Many of the world’s best art museums have made an effort to display their collections online. Thanks to this initiative, currently is possible to enjoy their masterpieces from home.

Being in front of an original work is not the same as watching its picture on a screen, but thanks to the high-quality images that some galleries show, sometimes even more details can be appreciated than on a visit to the museum.

In addition, it is worth mentioning the online complementary resources that some galleries offer: accurated descriptions of art works, historical references, links to similar pieces, videos and 360º photographs, image downloads and even the possibility of playing with the masterpieces.

This compilation includes links to art museums that show all of their collections -or a large part of them- online.

How is the compilation made?

Each reference includes:

  • Link to the home page of the official website.
  • Direct links to sections of the site that offer different ways to explore the collections.
  • Link, if applicable, to the museum section on Google Arts & Culture.

The Art Institute of Chicago

Virtual visit allows you to explore the collection by searching by keywords or applying thematic filters.
You can also go directly to a selection of highlights.
Another small group of works are displayed and explained by interactive features.
Images with the label Public Domain on it can be used for free, without any restriction.

Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam)

In my opinion, it is one of the most innovative museum websites because it invites visitors to explore and create their own collections.
Specifically, on the Rijksstudio section you can browse the collection using the search engine or going directly to the highlights, the artists directory, the subjects selection, etc. On this same section you can create your own tour. 
All images are freely downloadable.
On the 10 things… section you can learn curiosities about the history of works, authors and styles.

The Salomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York)

A collection highlight appears standing out in the main page. From there you can also browse the entire collection. Some filters (dates, mediums, movements…) can be applied to refine the query.
The browser includes works from Venice and Bilbao venues but you can also filter according to the location of works.
On the section Guggenheim at Large you will find different resources about the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright building, a selection of collection highlights and a set of artist’s videos.

National Gallery of Art (Washington)

The main page provides three ways to explore the collection: browsing a selection of the collection highlights, using the search engine and applying different criteria to find the works and browsing the artists directory.
On the NGA Images section  more than 51,000 open access digital images are available free of charge for download and use.

Museo del Prado (Madrid)

The Museo del Prado has an attractive website, with large images from the collection and plenty of multimedia information. You can start by exploring a selection of masterpieces or browsing the artists directory.
A special feature of this site is the timeline, in which the artwork pictures are located chronollogically.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Venice)

The collection includes works by well-known artists of the 20th century.
Pictures of the artworks are not very large, but they are complemented by a technical datasheet and a description that contextualizes each piece.

Musée du Louvre (Paris)

This website is included in the compilation because of the interest of some artworks from the Louvre collection. In my opinion, both, the structure and the quality of the images need to be updated urgently.
Only a limited number of artworks are available on the digital collection.
Pictures are very small, with the exception of the section Oeuvres à la loupe, in which some pieces are shown in detail.

Le Gallerie degli Uffizi (Florence)

The artworks section shows only a selection of high-quality images. You can use the search engine to find images of any work in the collection, but in this case the pictures are quite small.
The HyperVisions section is an excellent way to discover some masterpieces of the collections and their history, travelling through captivating descriptions and HD pictures.

Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam)

On the We bring the museum to you section you can find a selection of tips to enjoy the museum from home.
You also have different ways to explore the collection.
Using the search engine you can discover more than 4,300 high-quality images of paintings.
There is a collection highlights section, with a selection of nine artworks.

MoMA. The Museum of Modern Art (New York)

More than 85,000 works from the MoMA collection are currently available online. You can find them using the search engine or browsing the artists directory.
There is an art terms glossary that explains some of the techniques, mediums, art movements, and other terms you’ll encounter on the website, along with links to examples in the collection.

The State Hermitage Museum (Sant Petersburg)

A very special feature of this site is its virtual visit. You can go across halls and rooms thanks to excellent 360º photographs. If you are interested in an artwork, you can get its image and information by stopping in front of it.
Alternatively, the search engine can also be used to find the artworks in the extensive collection.
Registered users can create their own collections with their favorite artworks.

Kröller-Müller Museum (Otterlo)

The digital collection shows more than 6,400 works, both inside the museum and the large sculpture garden that surrounds it. You can do a keyword search and refine it by applying different types of filters.
The website includes the history of the museum in the form of chronology, based on commented images from 1869 to the present.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)

The Met houses more than two million artworks. Since 2017, 406,000 of them are available under Creative Commons Zero. This means that they can be downloaded and used without any restriction (see the Open Access policy).
The site has a very complete search engine in which, in addition to using keywords, you can apply different filters and order the results according to different criteria.
More than 8,000 pieces from the collection are included in the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History project that pairs essays and works of art with chronologies to tell the story of art.

Musée d'Orsay (Paris)

The museum website is built by outdated technology, making the visit unpleasant. Images are small, so you cannot see details of the artworks. I have included this site in the compilation due to the relevance of some of the paintings on display in the Musée d’Orsay.
The best way to visit the digital collection is by going directly to the Works in Focus section.

The National Gallery (London)

The digital collection includes about 2,600 high-quality images. You can browse all of them or use the search engine to find a specific artwork.
You can also go directly to the Highlights from the collection section to explore the most popular masterpieces.
Images can be enlarged to full screen and zoomed in to see the details of paintings.
Low resolution images can be downloaded for non-commercial use.

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (Barcelona)

The Museu Nacional at home is a compilation of digital resources to enjoy the MNAC online.
The collection is organized in different sections, related to historical periods or the origin of the works.
An advanced search engine is available.
There are several virtual tours that display sets of works related to a topic or style.
The glossary section defines art terms and illustrates them with images from the collection.

Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza (Madrid)

There are different ways to explore the collections: an artist directory, a selection of masterpieces or a search engine, in which some filters can be applied.
The virtual tour is particularly interesting. There is a 360º viewer that shows all the rooms. During the visit you can stop in front of any work and get information about it.
In addition, on the Thematic tours section, you can explore the collection based on topics such as fashion, food, jewelry, etc.

Munch Museet (Oslo)

The online catalog also includes artworks from the Stenersen Museum in Oslo.

Museu Episcopal de Vic

The MEV is a reference museum of medieval art. On its website, you can explore the collection in different ways: browsing a selection of masterpieces, using the search engine or doing the Virtual tour 360º through the rooms.
On My Mev section, you can create your own selections and itineraries.
All images are high-quality and can be generously enlarged to appreciate details.

Tate Galleries (London)

Tate Britain and Tate Modern share website with Tate Liverpool and Tate Saint Ives galleries.
The search engine includes all the collections but it is possible to apply a filter to select the different venues.
There is an artists search engine that allows you to find all the works of the same author in the Tate’s four museums.
You can register on the website and create your own albums with your favorite artworks.

The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts (Moscow)

The Museum hosts a large collection which includes works by the most famous european painters. On the Masterpieces section you can see a selection of one hundred artworks from all collections, randomly displayed.
If you want to explore the digital collection you first have to select a type of work (paintings, sculpture, prints and drawings, applied arts…) and then apply the wanted filters to narrow the results. A general search engine is missing.

The J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles)

The Museum owns a large collection of Antiquities (from the Neolithic to Late Antiquity), European art (illuminated manuscripts, drawings, paintings, sculpture and decorative arts, from the Middle Ages to the 20th century) and international photography. Most of them are available online.
You can discover the artworks by departments or using the Getty Search Gateway.
All digital images to which the Getty holds the rights are available through the Open Content Program. You can download these images without restriction.

Museu Calouste Gulbenkian (Lisbon)

The museum offers two independent circuits: the Founder’s Collection (artworks from Ancient Egypt to the 19th century) and the Modern Collection, one of the most complete collections of modern and contemporary Portuguese art.
You can explore the Founder’s Collection by selecting an artwork section. The Modern Collection browser offers several search possibilities (author, title, typology…).
Each collection has its own 360º virtual tour.

Alte Pinakothek (Munich)

The Alte Pinakothek, one of the most important art galleries in the world, presents a large collection of European painting from the 14th to the 18th century. It temporarily houses a selection of works from the Neue Pinakothek, dedicated to 19th century painting and closed until December 2021.
In fact, both galleries are part of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections). You can explore its online collection using a search engine or discovering the artwork Categories according to their origin and creation date.
You can also use an extended search engine to filter the results more accurately.
Registered users can create their own collections.

MASP - Museu de Arte de São Paulo

The originality and freshness of the website reflect the uniqueness of the museum, in which artworks are displayed on crystal easels instead of hanging on the walls.
The MASP is also internationally recognized for its collection and it is considered the most important art museum in the Southern Hemisphere.
You can explore the collection using a search engine or by taking a virtual tour, which includes audio explanations.

Do you want to do some activities based on these museums and their collections?

Image source:
Heading: National Gallery of Art (Washington). Edgar Degas. The Dance Lesson, c. 1879.
The Art Institute of Chicago. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Equestrienne, 1887-1888. 
Rijksmuseum. Rembrandt van Rijn. The Night Watch, 1642.
Guggenheim. Photo taken by the author, 2009.
National Gallery of Art. Claude Monet. The Japanese Footbridge, 1899.
Museo del Prado. Diego Velázquez. Los borrachos, o El triunfo de Baco, 1628-1629.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Photo taken by the author, 2005.
Musée du Louvre. Leonardo da Vinci. La Gioconda, 1503. Image from Wikimedia Commons.
Le Gallerie degli Uffizi. Sandro Botticelli. Nascita di Venere, c. 1485.
Van Gogh Museum. Vincent Van Gogh. Self-Portrait with Straw Hat, 1887.
MoMA. Photo taken by the author, 2009. Detail of Campbell’s Soup Cans, d’Andy Warhol, 1962.
The State Hermitage Museum. Hubert Robert. Painters, c. 1790.
Kröller-Müller Museum. Photo taken by the author, 2007. Marta Pan. Sculpture flottante, 1960-1961.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Paul Cézanne. The Card Players, 1890-1892.
Musée d’Orsay. Paul Gauguin. Femmes de Tahiti, 1891. Image from Wikimedia Commons.
The National Gallery. Peter Paul Rubens. Samson and Delilah, c. 1609-1610.
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. Mestre de Soriguerola. Sant Miquel pesant les ànimes, s. XIV.
Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. Frans Hals. Family Group in a Landscape, c. 1648. Image from Wikimedia Commons.
Munch Museet. Edvard Munch. Skrik, c. 1910. Photo: Halvor Bjørngård / Rena Li
Museu Episcopal de Vic. Anonymous. Frontal d’altar de Sant Vicenç d’Espinelves, c. 1187. Image from Wikimedia Commons.
Tate Modern. Robert Delaunay. Windows Open Simultaneously (First Part, Third Motif), 1912. Image from Wikimedia Commons.
The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. Vincent Van Gogh. Red Vineyard at Arles, 1888. Image from Wikimedia Commons.
The J. Paul Getty Museum. Camille Pissarro. Landscape at Louveciennes (Autumn), 1870.
Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso. Procissão Corpus Christi, 1913.
Alte Pinakothek. Albrecht Dürer. Selbstbildnis im Pelzrock, 1500.
MASP – Museu de Arte de São Paulo. Arthur Timótheo da Costa. A dama de verde, 1908. Image from Wikimedia Commons.
Background Activities section: The J. Paul Getty Museum. Vincent van Gogh. Irises, 1889.

Acknowledgements: Selene Gil and Carla Illa.