Finding Art Images

This pathfinder is designed to help find images of art works on and off the Web. This could include pictures of paintings, sculptures, or even pictures of architecture and reproductions of photographs. Some of the tricks for finding art images on the Web can also be used to find non art-related Web images.

If you want images in a particular size, it is good to know that .jpg images are likely to be larger than .gif images because .jpg images don’t take up as much computer memory; they lose a little quality in the process, but not usually enough to notice with the naked eye. If you only want large images, try just looking for images files ending in “.jpg”.

Online Resources

There are countless image collections and individual art images scattered throughout the Web. Although problematic, the Internet can be the easiest way to access the image you need.

Museum Websites

Often, the websites of art museums contain an online gallery of many works found in their collection. If you know the name or location of the museum or gallery that owns the artwork you need, it is helpful to access the website of that museum, and look for an image of the artwork there. The following websites will provide you with directories of these art museums and galleries.

Artcyclopedia – Art Museums Worldwide
At this website you can browse for galleries and museums by geographic location. All museum websites indexed in Artcyclopedia provide images of many artworks held in their collection.

Yahoo! Directory – Museums, Galleries, and Centers

Here, you can browse or search for the websites of thousands of art galleries and museums by category. A large portion of these websites will provide images of the artworks they hold.

Free Online Image Indexes

The following websites are indexes that contain links to thousands of free art images. Depending on what you are looking for, each website can be searched in a variety of ways.

There are 2,600 art sites indexed within Artcyclopedia. Here, you can search for images of works by over 8,700 artists. There are numerous ways to browse the site – by artist name, by art movement, or by title.

The Artchive
This site contains over 2,000 scanned images of fine art, historical background on art and artists, theory and criticism, and rotating “gallery” exhibitions.

The Web Gallery of Art
“The Web Gallery of Art is a virtual museum and searchable database of European painting and sculpture of the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods (1150-1750), currently containing over 8,000 reproductions. Biographies, commentaries, guided tours are available.”

Subscription-Based Image Indexes

In order to access the following websites, you must have a subscription. It is possible to sign up for a free trial. However, if you are interested in having unlimited access these websites, you should check your local library for a subscription. If the library does not have a subscription, ask a librarian for the nearest location that you can obtain access.

Grove Art Online
Grove Art Online is an “award-winning resource on every aspect of the visual arts from prehistory to the present day.” This resource contains “over 3,000 images displayed in the text of articles, with over 40,000 image links to hundreds of museums and galleries around the world.”

H.W. Wilson Art Museum Image Gallery
At the Art Museum Image Gallery you can find images and related multimedia gathered from the collections of distinguished museums around the world. This resource can be searched alone or “simultaneously with other WilsonWeb databases, including Art Full Text, Art Index Retrospective, Avery Index to Art Periodicals, and Biography Reference Bank.”

Using a Search Engine

Curiously enough, perhaps the fastest and most efficient way of finding images of any kind (not just art images) on the web can be to guess what someone else will name the image, and then use a search engine to look for that name. This strategy works best with images of generic things (cats, cauldrons, trees, etc.) and with famous images (da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, etc.).

To find art images using a search engine, you can specify any combination of words – artist names, artwork names, museum names, etc. If you find that the images returned in a search are not what you are looking for, try different combinations. You can obtain greater control of your searches by clicking on the “advanced search option.” which is featured in all search engines suggested below.

Most of these search engines allow Boolean searching. Boolean searching allows you to use the articles between search terms in order to broaden your search, or to make the search more specific. Boolean search terms are the word “and” (which makes results more specific), “or” (which broadens the search), and “not” (that specifies words you do not what to search for.) For example, you can search for “Van Gogh AND Starry Night”, “Van Gogh OR Starry Night”, or “Van Gogh NOT Starry Night.”

The following is a list of search engines that feature image searching:

Google Image Search
If you are looking for an exact name, search for the words in quotation marks. The advanced search option will give you

AltaVista Image Search


AltaVista does not have an advanced search option, it does allow you to search by file type, coloration, source, and size. You can use the quotation marks as described above to find exact words and phrases. Boolean searching can be quite useful here.

Yahoo! Image Search
Once again, using the “advanced search” option, you can get very specific with the words used to describe the image. You can also specify the size, site/domain, and the coloring of the image you need.

Clusty Image Search
Clusty specializes in making “clusters” of types of images. For example, if you search for “Starry Night”, the search engine will automatically group pictures by file size, file type, name, and URL (e.g. .edu or .com). The advanced search option also lets you specify the coloring of the image you would like to retrieve.

Print Resources

For many art works, especially famous ones, the greatest assortment of images in one place is likely be a book devoted to the subject.

Artwork by Artist Name

If you know the name of the artist whose work you would like to see, a book about that artist would be a good place to start. For example, a book about Van Gogh will usually have lots of pictures with the text, and may even have an index of illustrations. You can look for such books at your local public or university library by looking for the artist’s last name as a subject in the online catalog.

Artwork by Movement

If you do not know the name of the artist, but you do know what type of artwork you would like to see, books written about specific art movements is a great place to find images. Search for the name of the art movement in your local library’s online catalog. For example, if you want to find examples of Impressionism, use the term “Impressionism” for a title, keyword, or subject search.

Artwork by Region and/or Time Period

Sometimes you will need to access images that were created in a certain part of the world and/or artworks that were created during a specific time in history. To find these types of images, try a subject or keyword search in your library’s online catalog for “art” paired with the geographic location and/or time period you need (e.g. “Dutch art” or “Medieval art” or “Medieval Dutch art”).


Additional resources can be found at public and university libraries under call numbers in the 700’s of the Dewey Decimal Classification System and in the N section of the Library of Congress Classification System. You can use these subject headings to guide your search, or ask the staff at your library for help finding general image indexes.

This pathfinder created by Ken Irwin and updated by Lauren Foster for Dr. Eileen Abels Info 780 Course at Drexel University, Spring, 2008.