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Over 700k paintings from the Rijksmuseum online copyright free (ianvisits.co.uk)
434 points by edward 39 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 147 comments

> 700k paintings

This figure immediately reminded me of a very interesting EconTalk episode[0] on the management of art museums. The premises from the discussion (as I recall):

- Art museums have more than 10x the number of pieces in their archives as they do on display. Some of this art will never be seen by the pubic.

- When art galleries charge admission, patrons feel the need to "get their money's worth" so they rush to see as much of the exhibits as possible, without taking time to thoroughly enjoy anything.

- The purpose of art is to be enjoyed. The above two points make this goal much harder.

The conclusions:

- Museums should be free admission and funded by selling pieces from the archive (really interesting discussion on how this is taboo for curators)

The second-order effects:

- Patrons can sit and enjoy a very small section of the museum instead of rushing through, since they can simply come back for more later

- More people get to see fine art

- Second- and third-tier museums start to gain access to better art, since they can simply buy it instead of waiting for estate donations (which go to larger museums)

I think it's worth a listen.

[0]: https://www.econtalk.org/michael-ohare-on-art-museums/

The basement of the Rijks Museum is nothing short of incredible. There is so much precious art there that I don't even want to think about what damage a fire could do. There are so many works that that had not seen the light of day in 50 years or more that they had serious storage issues, never mind cataloguing what they actually had. I've been in there twice, once to look at a painting that had been damaged to help analyze the paint with a for the time very high tech chromatograph, once on invitation of the guy that ran the place.

Super happy to see this effort resulting in such an amazing collection free for the world to enjoy. Your typical tourist in Amsterdam will visit the Rijks for one or maybe two paintings and they won't care about the rest (your guess which two), but there is a lot more there that is worth you time and some patience.

I'm a bit of a philistine so please don't take this as more than cheap provocation, but would Rijks Museum basement burning down to cinders be such a loss if no one sees the collection anyway? Is art that's filed away (even for good reasons like future restorability) for lifetimes that precious?

Well a painting that nobody ever sees is functionally no different from a painting that's been burned down. However only one of those 2 is reversible, so in that sense it's still a loss.

As it is also a bit narrow minded to assume 'nobody' will ever see it will be true for ever...

At least now, thanks to modern technology , more can see the art then ever before :-)

Scholars and historians can get access; works that wouldn't necessarily wow the public can be useful for other purposes, like historical research.

This is the correct answer.

A lot of the time, it isn't simply future restorability. Museums have limited space, and as stuffy and unchanging as they can seem, really do reflect the vision of current curators. Simply by math, a lot of pieces don't get selected for display, and they just hangout in the archive for whatever scholar/student/future curator might be interested.

Additionally, a lot of the art in the archive is by nature going to be stuff that might make sense to display in a dedicated exhibit, but less so in a general museum. By that, I mean that if you have a handful of Picasso canvases, along with 100 of his sketches, displaying all 100 sketches probably doesn't make sense unless you're doing a special Picasso exhibit.

In this way, the archive is important, and Rijks burning down would suck. Along the lines of your thinking, however, there is a ton of amazing art sitting in investors' basements and shipping containers that we might never see again, much of which we've already lost track of.

If something like this would occur, it would be comparable to the burning of the library of Alexandria. That's why digitizing the collection is such an important feat.

Art isn't only something that can be revered. Works of art are basically historical documents that contain a narrative of that period. It's not all self-portraits of people missing an ear or reclining nudes, even though they too contain a lot of information that is telling of the period they were made in. Up until some two hundred years ago artists like painters and sculptors, were some of the few that could actually immortalize, or at least significantly prolong the normal lifespan of people, things or events.

I encourage anyone to take some time to go through these online collections. It's amazing what you'll learn about history by being inquisitive about the subject matter. I can also recommend the Arts & Culture project by Google, which already indexed a tremendous amount of the Rijksmuseum's catalogue.

> comparable to the burning of the library of Alexandria

While I will be the first to agree with you that paintings and other visual art is precious and worth keeping, it is not on the same level as books and knowledge. Comparing these is not doing justice to either one.

There's a TV prog in the UK that finds treasures in the archives of museums. There have been some impressive discoveries.

Nobody says the art needs to be kept there till end of universe. Also they could rotate them with the ones they show upstairs, ie during some thematic period instead of broad spectrum they have now. Obviously they'll probably never remove Night watch or Girl with a pearl earring (at least I hope so), but still a major temporary refresh could draw a lot of people.

Who says there won't be many more museums in 50 years? Or some other model which will result in more art being on display.

If Dutch culture budget gets in serious issues, they could finance museum survival also via sales of those.

The options what to do with it are almost endless and much better than just losing them.

Tip: don’t go to the Rijksmuseum to see Girl with a pearl earring.

Reason: you won’t find it (it’s in the Mauritshuis in The Hague. https://www.mauritshuis.nl/nl-nl/)

I am pretty sure I saw it there once. I've never been to Hague, or in fact anywhere else in NL. Must have been at least 5 years ago, probably more.

That's what museums do, lend/borrow collections, rotate collections.

I attended art school at a large museum, and the best part was getting access to the "basement" (they have an actual term for the archive, I just can't remember it).

There's so much art that, simply for the sake of limited display space (as well as other things), can't get shown in the museum. Digitizing efforts like this are fantastic.

Me and the wiff visited the Rijks in late 2019. There is rather more than two paintings to see and the ship models were quite fun. We thoroughly enjoyed it. We spent a good five hours there and will return some day.

> Your typical tourist in Amsterdam will visit the Rijks for one or maybe two paintings and they won't care about the rest (your guess which two)

Night Watch and...? Girl With a Pearl Earring? The Hare?

Pearl earring is in the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague.

Visiting Rijksmuseum for night watch and not spending at least an hour in the wing where it is housed would be extremely silly - all the paintings there are worth the visit.

Freeports figure quite prominently in Christopher Nolan's 'Tenet'.

And in Billions TV Show

> Patrons can sit and enjoy a very small section of the museum instead of rushing through, since they can simply come back for more later

I think this is interesting, but doesn't work when you are visiting from out of town. We did this very thing when we visited Rijksmuseum -we had half a day and wanted to see everything we could. But the point is taken that smaller museums would get nicer collections. We could enjoy our local Museum more if it had more Dutch masters!

This is definitely true about visiting a local zoo or museum when you have a membership. Our son just want so see the lions? That's fine! We'll come back some other time and see the rest.

> Patrons can sit and enjoy a very small section of the museum instead of rushing through, since they can simply come back for more later

They can do this now. But if museum sells collection the can't "simply come back for more later" cause it will be gone forever into private hands.

> More people get to see fine art

until it's all been sold.

> Second- and third-tier museums start to gain access to better art, since they can simply buy it instead of waiting for estate donations (which go to larger museums)

There is no way 2nd and 3rd teir museums are going to be able to compete with private buyers on price. Also where will they get money to buy this if they have to sell art to raise money.

This sounds like typical "privatize everything cause free markets!" privileged people spew because they'll benefit more than when they have to share public services with the "dirty" masses.

Why don't you take some time to listen to the podcast before getting angry about the market or someone else's privilege?

Also, maybe you missed the part where there is 10x-100x the amount of art sitting in the archive than on display? Bringing lots of new supply of art onto the market would necessarily lower prices. This would make it less profitable to buy up art privately in the hope that it appreciates. It would also make it more affordable for other museums.

At the same time, there's nothing preventing a first-tier museum from only selling to other museums rather than to private collectors. They might even stipulate terms of the sale that the art must stay with the new owner for a minimum time frame.

Why must everything be mercantilised? Why must everything fit the logic of The Market? Increase supply, lower prices, etc.

Is it a good thing that so much art is in the hands of private individuals? Shouldn't the legacy and heritage of past generations by rights belong to everybody?

One problem with storing it all in one basement is what if the basement burns or catches fire? All gone.

Distributing it widely means enormously lowering the risk of it all being lost.

It's not as if all art exists in one basement. There are over 1,500 art museums in the US alone, not accounting for all of the art stored in galleries, public buildings, and in private collections. If one particularly large node--say MoMA--burnt down, that would be a huge blow, but it would not destroy the world's art archive by any means.

Ironically, distributing art widely via the private market leads to way more lost art. A painting living in the AIC's basement means there's an entire team dedicated to preserving it, and a system for accessing it should you want to see it. A painting living in the basement of an anonymous investor who bought it off-the-record from someone who themselves bought it anonymously at auction may never resurface (incidentally, this scenario describes the state of quite a bit of classic art).

> Distributing it widely means enormously lowering the risk of it all being lost.

You may not have intended it, but that sounds like loose statistical language meant to misguide the reader. Yes the probability that ALL is lost is lower when works are distributed, so your statement is correct. But what actually matters is the expected total value of the works successfully preserved over time under each methodology.

I’d bet on libraries, specifically top tier institutional libraries, where they have whole preservation departments for whom disaster planning is a key responsibility.

The professional archivists stored all the unpublished Kennedy pictures in a vault in the bottom of the World Trade Center. Perfectly safe there. No need to make copies.

Whilst it emphasises that loss is still a factor, I don't feel your anecdote counters the position of the parent comment at all.

Arguably, if that art was in the hands of private individuals then it would at least get some use; if it's filed away in museums basement then it effectively belongs to nobody, since neither the public nor the potential private buyers can enjoy it.

I think a lot of people on this thread are getting the wrong idea of how art archiving works, which is understandable, as the art world is pretty opaque at the best of times.

Being stored in a museum's basement is not a terminal state. Beside the growing effort to digitize collections (like this one), new curators design new exhibits based on their archive--and the archives of other museums who are willing to loan pieces--all the time. The archives are also typically accessible on request, though this is mostly done by researchers/students.

Being stored in the archive simply means there is a team of people dedicated to caring for a piece until there is someone asks to see it. This system isn't perfect, and some museums are better than others about access, but it is far from the "buried forever" scenario that many seem to be imagining.

In fact, the "lost forever" scenario is far more common on the private market, where art is bought as an investment in which the owner is actually incentivized to restrict access. Due to the complexities of international trade, there is a huge amount of "lost" art sitting in some anonymous buyer's vault that may or may not ever resurface. To be clear, I have no problem with the private ownership of art, it's just more often the cause of the problem being discussed here (inaccessibility) than it is a solution.

Saddly the kind of pieces sitting in Rijskmuseum basement will never refill with "lots of new suplly". Its heritage from past that you may not be able to see yourself but which is publicly cared and may be enjoyed by future generation.

I really like the disruptive idea and it may work as expected for a while but in a few decades everything's gone in private collections.

The primary goal of museum is to care of masterpieces and history traces. They're definitely not an entertainment center as a zoo. Don't get me wrong, I'd love the opposite because lions are sensible beings are status aren't.

The conclusions are a bit too simplistic.

A museum is not just an amusement park. If you want to see less art be more selective in what to see or go to the advertised shows and be amused.

A museum preserves cultural heritage.

The roman books about the greeks hidden in monasteries, sculptures buried in the earth that inspired the renaissance where not seen by the public for hundreds of years.

Until some start reading them again,a fire, a hope for a different way of thinking was born, accumulating to democracy land of the free etc. and probably your way of life as it is now.

So do not underestimate the value of currently unseen cultural heritage.

Selling it of now to a rich dump head showing it around until it rots in a basement as it is not envogue anymore is a filter but will put it on high risk.

"- When art galleries charge admission, patrons feel the need to "get their money's worth" so they rush to see as much of the exhibits as possible, without taking time to thoroughly enjoy anything."

Where I live there's an annual subscription that's valid for the majority of museums countrywide. The museums get the money in some proportion to how they were visited but the annual cost is fixed for one citizen. So, if you want, you can visit the same (or a different!) museum every day and look at just one painting or piece at a time.

This has both increased the income for museums but also number of visits. Sounds like a good model for financing the upkeep of museums.

FWIW this also exists in the Netherlands, it's very handy when I have visitors as I can go along to most of the places they go without having to pay, or just when I have an afternoon free and want to go do something.

In the USSR central museums (think The Hermitage or The Pushkin Museum) would distribute a lot of art from their archives to regional museums, even to museums in small villages. So you wouldn't be surprised to see good quality art (sometimes by famous artists) even in small towns.

This is something that can be encouraged more, especially across borders. For example, British museums definitely don't know what to do with their vast caverns filled with plunder .... ahem, vast archives of art, but even a small fraction of a fraction of that would be a great addition to a museum in, say, Moldova (my country), or Serbia, or ...

Perhaps the Brits could lend some marble stone to the Greeks...

Funny, an MP in my country suggested this some time ago, lend or donate art pieces to the former colonies. Cue the reactions calling her an "unpatriotic traitor".

Perhaps one should also consider changing the way we look at art. Is it a good thing that it is privatised? The legacy and heritage of past generations should by rights belong to all.

Museums should be free admission

Museums are free in the UK (apart from special events). They are funded by the state.

*Mostly free. Most larger museums are free admission, and many smaller museums are not.

And (I find this annoying) the big museums are "free"--it often says so in big letters on the outside--but you're very clearly expected to "donate" an amount when you enter.

That is aimed at those who don't pay UK tax like tourists from abroad.

As a visitor, I happily paid to enjoy a day at the London Science Museum. I could have enjoyed two or three more full days there.

They might expect you to but they won't force you. You can just walk in.

Likewise in Australia, there's some great collections which you are free to wander through at your leisure.

Pretty much any publicly funded gallery has free admission.

Reminds me of the time that I read in a book about the Louvre it would take 3 days to see it all. So I booked for 3 days and it’s true : together with the book it took me exactly three days.

It’s important you always choose what to see, otherwise it becomes a blur.

I'd probably still hit overload even if I had 3 days to devote to seeing the Louvre. I find I can handle 3 or 4 hours of a museum and I have to get out and do something else.

Of course, it really helps if you've been to a place before and will probably go back again. When I go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art I basically have a mental plan for what I'm going to see.

A museum membership is really nice if you're in a place a lot. At a time when I was visiting NYC frequently and MOMA had just reopened after a major renovation and tickets were hard to get, I bought a membership. It was really nice to be able to pop in for an hour when I was in town and see some things I especially liked.

> A museum membership is really nice if you're in a place a lot.

This. One of the reasons to live in a major city is regular access to first tier museums. I used to go hang out in the scholars court at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as an escape from the city for a while, then take a stroll through a gallery on my way back out as a use for my lunchtime.

>This. One of the reasons to live in a major city is regular access to first tier museums.

Absolutely. Having grown up in NYC and spending a lot of time in Central Park as a child, my brother and I would often go to the Metropolitan Museum on rainy days.

Their admissions policy is the same now (pay what you wish, but you must pay something) as it was back in the 1970s, but they don't really make that clear any more.

As 9/10 year old kids by ourselves, we didn't have much money, so we'd pay a nickel or a quarter and go and wander around the museum. It was (and still is) glorious!

Having those experiences as a child was amazing, and I heartily recommend visiting museums to everyone.

I've been to the Rijksmuseum too, and it's pretty amazing. In Amsterdam, I do like the Van Gogh Museum more, but that's more personal preference than anything else. The Rijksmuseum has a much more extensive collection too.

That they're putting this stuff online is wonderful, but there's no substitute for actually being there.

These days, I always give the recommended donation (I think it's $25 for non-members), but

>Their admissions policy is the same now (pay what you wish, but you must pay something) as it was back in the 1970s, but they don't really make that clear any more.

I believe that's only true for New York state residents now. Others have to pay. [1] Basically, I guess more and more people stopped paying.

[1] https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/now-at-the-met/2018/updated-...

>I believe that's only true for New York state residents now. Others have to pay. [1] Basically, I guess more and more people stopped paying.

That may well be true. But as long as it's true for NYS residents, that means kids today can do what I did back in the day. And that's a very good thing.

I wish the American Museum of Natural History had been that way too (it never was) or I would have gone there more often too. It's not art focused, but it's a wonderful experience.

I bought a special week ticket in Paris for all cultural institutions. It was great sailing past all the tourist who were trapped in the rows before the registers.

That doesn't immediately ring a bell but I'm sure I've been there. I lean towards the American Wing courtyard.

But how does the first tier museum acquire stuff for its archives and where does the money for that come from?

Often it's a donation from an estate. I believe they discuss this in the podcast episode (though it has been years since I listened to it).

To a certain degree, it's not impossible that museums are either competent enough to recognise talented artists early, or so powerful that their buying itself is the signal that makes an artist.

Either way, it's at least theoretically possible that they could finance themselves by, essentially, savvy investment in artworks.

Many museums started in the times of yore, and became first tier through donations by powerful and rich patrons (and/or by the state).

I find this to be such an arbitrary standard.

It's a form of visual entertainment no different from visiting the cinema or a theatre; of course one is to pay for it.

They make expenses housing these paintings just as a cinema does, and have the right to charge to recuperate this.

In fact, I see no reason why musea should even be allowed to be non-profit. — is a cinema ever non profit?

There seems to be a rather arbitrary mentality that some entertainment should be free, in particular whatever entertainment “the cultural establishment” has arbitrarily declared to be “intellectual”, often for no other reason than that it's old.

Wishing to see a famous painting with one's own eyes is no different from wanting to see a famous singer perform live. — a man should pay for it if he wish to do so.

In the Netherlands many of the musea are semi public, and especially the Rijks get a lot of tax money and also a lot of donations. The Rijksmusem is actually the national museum, Rijk is another word for State or maybe closer to empire. It's entire collection is the heritage of the Dutch state. So in this case it's not a bad argument to make that it shouldn't be hidden in a basement but shared with the public. Although since the nineties the Rijks is officially an independent foundation.

I know. I am merely asking why the state owns a museum and not a cinema or strip club.

I find that some draw an arbitrary distinction between “art” and “entertainment” with endless semantics debates of what constitutes “art”, but typically fueled by “whatever the party that decides it feels is sufficiently associated with the intellectual elite rather than the bourgeois common man.”.

I find this distinction to be bereft of merit and yet another example of trying to create a line between the rich and the poor.

If the poor man showed an interest in Rembrandt, it would be called entertainment; if the rich man were more fond of 50 Cent, it would be called art.

That's an interesting remark indeed. Though I do see some differences that might explain it. For example, the cinemas and museums differ vastly on the medium they serve. A copy of a painting bears little value. A singer is unique in its persona for the live ecperience but can serve a large crowd in one sitting, saturating the market. Whereas a painting can only be viewed by a small crowd at any single time, given you want to see the original and not a display. So it will take ages to extract value when based on a reasonable ticket price. This stands in contrast with the prices often paid for high profile pieces, giving reason to subsidized content. Which in general is best served to a non profit.

Or to put it more bluntly, art is an archaic medium of entertainment that has little chance of survival against modern media and society wishes to keep it.

> A singer is unique in its persona for the live ecperience but can serve a large crowd in one sitting, saturating the market. Whereas a painting can only be viewed by a small crowd at any single time, given you want to see the original and not a display.

A singer can only serve a large crowd if his voice be amplified by some mechanism, which is no different than electronically magnifying a painting.

For the “authentic” experience, one would have to be closer, which means the serving would be diminished in capacity.

Apart from that, the Dutch government arbitrarily gives out art subsidies for musical performances, invariably performances it arbitrarily deems “artistic” enough, which seems to come down to little more than “whatever style of music it associates with an older, more educated, wealthier audience.”

I find it rather arbitrary that Wibi Soerjadi can cash in his art subsidies, but Anouk cannot.

> Or to put it more bluntly, art is an archaic medium of entertainment that has little chance of survival against modern media and society wishes to keep it.

And I would submit that the reasons that society wishes to keep it, is purely because it's associated with rich, educated adults.

My argument leans heavily in the fact that electronically magnifying a painting does not work for most, whereas amplified voices do. Otherwise everyone can just Google the paintings right? The magic is seeing it in real life. Which has practical limitations hampering the business case.

And everyone can also listen to music at home, yet many go to concerts instead, and many say that hearing a band performed unplugged adds an extra layer of authenticity and intimacy to the sound.

Yes, exactly. People can listen music at home, and also see pictures of paintings at home. Yet people do go to digitally scaled events of musicians, while they don't go to digitally scaled events of paintings. Why that is, I tried to explain in my previous post. Your argument regarding authenticity of unplugged artists applies only to a fraction of people.

> is a cinema ever non profit?

Yes? I regularly attend showings at a non-profit cine-club.

Or on the other hand, it seems that the real crime is that you have to pay to see the movies. Art and entertainment are both the shared inheritance of all humans, and all humans have the inherent right to freely and indefinitely enjoy them.

For movies with nine-figures budgets it makes sense to protect them, similar to patents - but it is absolutely mind-boggling that unlike patents, copyright expires 70 years after the death of the author.

Few would donate to the museums if they were for profit, which would destroy the economics.

Many museums are education oriented rather than entertainment oriented anyways. There is a reason school busses are constantly distorting students.

> is a cinema ever non profit?

Occasionally. Or at least run in a "only making the bills because they are supported by donations and public funds" fashion similar to many museums and other arts things.

In the UK museums are publicly funded and free (people also donate and there are special time-limited exhibits that they can charge for).

This works really well and doesn't involve selling the family silver.

Or issue one-week tickets. I've been to a couple of places that do that - amazing if you have kids and they go off on one (ie have a bad day/meltdown), you can leave and not lose out.

Depends a lot on the venue, but some places that won't increase visitor stays, it might even reduce them. I'll bet it makes them nicer places to be too.

I imagine it wouldn't work for them Louvre!

Regarding the "get their money's worth":

In the Netherlands we have the museumkaart[0], costs are €60 per year.

Which give you unlimited access to most museums here. Resulting in a lot of people going multiple times to the same museum.

[0] https://www.museum.nl/nl/museumkaart

It makes me wonder; why not build a massive multi-story museum complex with the wall space to show all of them. Make it more like a library than a museum.

I guess conservation, security and cost would be the biggest issues there.

I remember listening to this episode! I often actually disagree with the host fairly often, but find him worth listening to. I think it doesn't happen because other art museums will refuse to loan works of art to you on visiting exhibits if you sell any of your artwork. The Baltimore Museum of Art (https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/baltimore-museum-of-ar...) faced a huge backlash when they decided to sell art. Being in the DC area, I do find that I use museums differently when they are free. I can just stop in to see a single exhibit.

Fyi, in Scotland, museum access is free... Something I'm grateful for and happy to contribute my taxes towards

Isn't that the case in all of the UK? I never paid for a museum in England either anyway (other than voluntary donations). In New Zealand it's free too.

In the Netherlands it's pretty expensive, but a number of museums have a "free day" once a month.

My biggest problem is actually not so much the price, but rather the opening times, which tend to be during office hours: when people are working. I would love it if more museums would be open until 21:00 or 22:00.

People in the UK should know that the Tate Gallery, being a publicly-funded museum, are required to make any items in their collection available for you to see on request. When studying sculpture I was really interested in a 1972 piece by Marcel Broothaers called Tractatus Logico-Catalogicus and noticed that the Tate had it in their collection. I emailed them and set up a time to visit a warehouse in SE London, and they brought it out for me to look at it. It's so much better than seeing things in a packed gallery, let alone a packed Tate, and you get a real sense of what the work is like in the flesh, stripped of all the spectacle and didactic trash that generally surrounds works in somewhere like the Tate.

I understand that to be true if you are studying/researching the item but is that true for any old member of the public?

Yes, it can be personal study. You don't need to be affiliated with an institution. Perhaps if you're asking to look at a Monet they might want a bit more information (Marcel Broodthaers isn't exactly a household name!), but if your hobby is painting and you want to study the brushstrokes I don't think they'd be able to turn you down - the whole point of these institutions is that they're paid for by the state, and by extension the taxes of its citizens.

Yeh that makes sense I guess. Conversely, a family of 4 turning up to get a private viewing doesn't seem in the spirit, even if it's their home-schooling art class.

I was curious with respect to places like the Tate that are really only partly state funded (30%) so I'd consider it reasonable for them to approve the most "worthy" 30% of requests.

Yeah, for sure - if you and some mates just want to gawp at a Picasso I think you'd get pretty short shrift!

I don’t know about museums but I do know that many public bodies in the UK will take enquiries from any member of the public, and will not automatically turn down requests - although such requests may go to the bottom of the priority queue if there are other requests of greater public interest.

There is also an API available that allows bulk access to the collection's metadata and images [0].

[0] https://data.rijksmuseum.nl/object-metadata/harvest/

Can someone please write an Emacs command that shows me a random painting from this data set?

Link to the browseable collection: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio

Is it just me, or is this site not retina/high DPI-aware? All the images look kind of blurry to me.

Edit: here's a screenshot https://i.imgur.com/xTmYLgv.jpg. The left-hand side is the online viewer, while the right is the downloaded image viewed in the mac preview app. The download is obviously much higher quality.

It kind of bugs me that they can't get this right.

If you're talking about thumbnails, I think they made the right choice. Just the top part of the homepage already contains 5MB of image assets. Scrolling down a few times quickly ups that to 15MB and more. I'd rather have reasonably sized and optimized images throughout the site - with high resolutions ones as downloads - and a very speedy browsing experience, then the other way around.

However, I would expect the online tiled image viewer to show the full, high quality image - at least, when zoomed in.

Yeah, I think the default view on the page is of average quality. Not sure why, but it seems to be a completely intentional choice. I think to download high-dpi they want you to register an account. /shrug

I've seen this kind of thing from other museums too.

Can anyone recommend a way of a layperson getting them printed in decent quality, say on canvas, for hanging in the home? Is there a good online service that does this where I can upload one of these hi-res images?

The ones I've seen are mostly glossy photo paper for family portraits, rather than the use case of replicating oil paintings.

The Rijksmuseum will let you order prints on canvas for what seems like a reasonable price to me: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio/works-of-art/still... If you hover the 'Scissors' icon in the lower right while viewing a work of art, you can choose 'Order' and then you have some choices of crop, orientation, poster or canvas etc.

Unfortunately you need an account to see pricing. It is cool that they eventually will be able to serve US customers (currently EU only).

I see prices without needing an account.

I've used Shutterfly to order canvas prints. It's still ink and not oil paints, but it is on canvas. The result isn't glossy like a photo print, but it also doesn't show brushstrokes like a real oil painting, although I guess you would still see some if you sent a picture of an oil painting. They love sending out coupons that make it reasonably affordable. The canvas comes mounted on an internal wooden frame.

You'll probably get copyright questions if you submit an professional artwork, but if you can show it is in the public domain they might do it. I've never tried.

I’d be very interested in this too. The museum should set up a service and take a share of the profits

They did, you can do this from the page viewing the artwork itself, put onto a poster, canvas, aluminium, or a gallery print.

Are these downloadable? Just clicking through didn't seem to have any download links available.

For context, I've been trying to learn color theory and put it into practice in photography. One of the things you could do to train yourself is to look at how the great artists of the past used color - of course if you have a great eye, maybe this comes naturally to you, but for me, I'd have to upload it to some site like color.adobe.com and have it extract the color scheme manually.

Ever since I started, I've been having so much trouble downloading photographs of the art work that I just started taking screenshots and using those instead. Kind of sad that what is our collective cultural history cannot be widely used because the photographer who took a photo of the art work didn't chose to make their high-res photo widely available.

On clicking through (ex. https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/RP-P-OB-697), there's a download button, but it requires you to register an account.

yeah, there's a scissor icon when viewing an artwork and clicking that will give you an option to download (you'll need an account created first). Also, give it like a good 3 seconds after you click it, I noticed it took a while to start the download :/

You can almost always find the file in browser's developer tools (the network tab). Screenshots are terrible for this purpose because you end up with either huge PNGs of JPEGs, or JPEGs with an extra layer of compression artefacts.

Oh the engage in a lot of trickery including chopping the image up into bits and loading it as part of a thousand different <img> tags. More pain than it's worth.

It's always fantastic to see these get released into the public domain. I am not someone who is trained to appreciate art, but I find it relaxing to take a break from coding to look at landscape paintings from time to time.

I should also plug Google's Arts & Culture Chrome extension. It can show you a new piece of artwork on the "new tab" splash page, rotating either every 24 hours or every tab. It's been a great way for me to get exposed to artwork and artists that I may not have found otherwise. My only complaint is that the set of works is somewhat small and after a year of use (with 24 hour rotations) you will start to notice repeats.

Does anyone know of an "awesome" list of such resources? I've seen dozens of such announcements, but I never really have the time to explore and wish they were collected somewhere so that I could look later.

I've used the embeddings (obtained by lopping off the final densely connected layers leading up to a classifier) from Alexnet and Imagenet, as distributed by Pytorch to try and cluster samples of art with HDBSCAN and didn't get great results. The graph generated by Mapper also doesn't make much sense.

Maybe there's a whole literature on this subject, but I'm way too thinly spread among interests and would love to know if there's something that's already done with standard parts to address this problem.

Density based clustering with high dimensional data will tend to struggle. This is because, in high enough dimensions, you need a lot of samples to see any density. Also distances start to look very similar (from the curse of dimensionality). To get any traction on such things you need some form of dimension reduction. For something like this non-linear techniques are going to be better. If you want a pipeline of standard parts then something like:

Pretrained-CNN --> UMAP --> HDBSCAN

can turn out relatively reasonable results, especially if the UMAP you use for the clustering is to more than 2 or 3 dimensions (often 5 to 20 is good, depending on the data). You can, of course, still use a 2D UMAP to visualize the results. If you want such a pipeline packaged up then consider the PixPlot package, designed for exactly this use case, from the Yale Digital Humanities Lab: https://github.com/YaleDHLab/pix-plot

* Disclaimer: I am highly biased, as an author of both HDBSCAN and UMAP implementations.

> The images are being released under Creative Commons 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication – which is essentially copyright and royalty free.

So can I use them on my game?

You can use them on anything. That's the point of the license.

I wish there was a quality color e-ink offering, that was just a display that displayed art. I’m thinking of something like Netgear’s Meural but with a higher quality display.

Sure I could hack it together myself with an raspberry pi or something, but it would be great to have something that “just worked” that I could put in different rooms around the home.

Agreed. In previous epaper discussions here on HN, people complained that epaper doesn't have enough contrast ratio to make sense as a market. But lower contrast ratios are perfect for things that should not stand out any more than an actual physical paper or canvas would. Ambient artwork and ambient displays are perfect applications for epaper/e-ink.

Not all 700k works of art have a copyright free image because there are also modern works that are still copyrighted.

Aren't such archives (~3TB as mentioned here) a perfect fit for IPFS? Are there any initiatives to put this and similar content there (or some other decentralized networks) and made it easily available to the public?

FWIW, the Netherlands is now under curfew:

"Further, one person will be allowed to walk their dog on a leash at a time. However, Rutte asked that people not try to skirt the rules by arranging for a "loaner dog" if Parliament approves the curfew. "

"If you're going to pass around your dog among the whole family so everyone can go out late into the night, that's just really stupid."


And also: the dog has to be on a leash, which is a physical link between two objects, one of type 'dog' and one of type 'man' to avoid accidental one-to-many relationships between an instance of 'dog' and multiple instances of 'man' (as in 'mankind'). You are not allowed to put multiple leashes on the same dog. And you are also not allowed to claim that a dog that is sans leash is yours..

Enterprising folks are already offering their dogs for rent.

Insert rust joke about the borrow checker here...

Even more enterprising folks are researching whether walking cats is permitted and whether small rodents can be typecast to the class of 'dog'.

Like the opposite of Rover and Wag, a gig economy for dogs instead of people, where they deliver you a dog to walk during coronavirus curfews:

Deliverpoo, aka Poober Walkies: 24/7 doorstep delivery dog rental, guaranteed well fed and ready to go.

Need to go out for brisk jog through the city at night to meet up with a drug dealer or pimp? Rent a fully loaded Doberman or German Shepherd to accompany and defend you.

Feel more like a slow romantic moonlit walk along the beach? Rent an adorable economy wiener dog.

No need to typecast as long as you can teach the rodents to bark, since the police should be using Dog Typing anyhow.

What is the danger of a single person walking by themselves, sans dog, outside at night?

It seems like half the government reactions to lock down is a good idea based on the understanding of virus transmission, and the other half is just security theater. Does this hurt the government's own efforts? Any reasonable person will understand that they aren't hurting anyone by walking outside near no one. Or two people from the same household walking their dog at night near no one. This may make people generally less likely to follow all the rules, because they see that half the rules are just made up nonsense.

The rationale of the government is that they want to reduce casual house gatherings. Walking out in a winter night in the Netherlands is hardly a leisure activity. If you're walking outside at night, chances are you are going to, or returning from a social gathering.

So while unpleasant, the amount of security theater isn't particularly high.

I have similar misgivings about this policy. One possibly reasoning that I've seen, and that isn't entirely implausible, is that there is still significant transmission going on in private gatherings, which tend to happen in the evenings. These curfews would then be attempts to curb such behaviour.

Enforcement. You need to be able to set rules, you can enforce easily. If you allow single person walking, what will you do if you see 2 people close to each other.

People will always try to avoid the rules, so in this kind of stuff enforcement is really hard. Better to have hard but short lived restrictions.

The idea of a curfew is that there are as few possible people outside, so there is some chance that the police has the capacity to check on those who are there. Yes, it's very unpleasant, but may be necessary in some cases.

Cooping people up in the winter is how we used to believe would cause illness to spread. Why are we doing it on purpose now?

It's an indirect measure. The target of the measure is not to prohibit being outside (although that is the first-order effect), but to prevent mixing households.

The real reason is that you're not allowed to coop up with guests in your home, but the police is not allowed to enter private residences and enforce that. So the night-time curfew is now being floated as the one thing that they can enforce to discourage people spending their evening with friends. Of course, it does nothing to discourage day-time visits, and I suspect evenings-with-friends will now turn into adult sleepover parties, but I guess we're still big on symbolism.

In my opinion, it'd be better if the government just declared the battle against Covid lost. They've tried for a year to appeal to the better nature of our citizens, and those citizens have democratically elected not to care about Covid. But at the same time, I know that openly tossing the towel will only lead to more people ignoring the measures.

I've actually been building a [jigsaw puzzle app](https://kaesve.nl/projects/masterpieces) because wanted to do something with their online collection. They not only put paintings and other artworks online for free, but also their meta data, through an api or bulk download (see https://data.rijksmuseum.nl/).

Just FIY, the puzzle doesn't load here. I tried disabling uBlock, but still it looks like some .JS is missing.

Some years ago they also released a bunch of images, a kind person made the effort to put them into a torrent: http://matthewlincoln.net/2015/10/19/the-rijksmuseum-as-bitt...

It'd be nice if museums could do that work themselves, when they can do the work to make an API. No I won't make an account.

Interesting way to decorate your house: print the free art on canvas and frame it to decorate your house..


Considering that this option is available, it's odd that people buy, to pick a divisive example, Thomas Kinkade prints:


I'm surprised that nobody has implemented a google-maps style overlay for things like this. I would love to see the whole collection on a 2d grid that I can zoom in to see the images themselves -- maybe some organization tools to reposition the images on virtual grid for different aspects (by time, by artist, by colors) but the interface seems like such a natural fit, with dragging and zooming, rather than the page navigation they have here.

I enjoy cycling through art as wallpaper on my monitor.

There are a couple wallpaper apps for the Roku of great pictures, but they are just a few dozen images which just get really old after a while and I go back to the clock screensaver.

The same with the Comcast cable box.

A screensaver with 10,000 pictures of great art, randomly selected and displayed, would be wonderful.

I'd also like to recommend the rest of Ian's site, as it has lots of periodic, often geeky, information about London, especially Underground. Like his weekly review of alleys: https://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/category/alleys/

The list of images can be found here: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio?ii=0&p=0&from=2021...

Apparently the images cannot be downloaded off the website without an account. That's disappointing.

However, the license means that someone can reupload the images to another platform, like the Internet Archive.

I checked, and while there doesn't seem to be a collection for the Rijksmuseum, a certain "NL_Archivist" has been busy uploading images from Het Utrechts Archief the past few days: https://archive.org/details/@nl_archivist

I wouldn't be surprised if they continued with the Rijksmuseum collection afterwards.

Here's an IP question:

Under what legal arguments can the Rijksmuseum do this? Or, alternatively, how can those museums that do so prevent copies of their works?

Copyright? Wouldn't that have expired long ago?

Edit: I understand the reasoning behind preventing flash photography of the paintings---it damages them. But that's not really what I'm asking about.

Many works in museums are still under copyright. Art isn't equivalent with "ancient".

For photographs of out-of-copyright works, the question if the photo is itself a creative work protected by copyright is answered differently depending on jurisdiction. In the US and, by extension, for Wikimedia Commons, it generally isn't. In some European countries, it is.

I would generally subscribe to the idea that such photos are not protected. But it isn't quite as obvious as one might think. Taking high-quality photos of these artworks does involve a lot of work and, on occasion, maybe even creativity. What if I edit the photo afterwards to bring out the details? What if I chose special lighting conditions that interact with the pigments of the specific materials used?

The City Walls painting on the front page is captivating (e.g., what are the kids doing with the sled, playing, chores?). I spent a while admiring it. But I am having trouble finding any information on it.

I lived 2 years in amsterdam and I cant spell Rijksmuseum properly

Is there anyway to just download the highest quality versions of all the art? I would love to just get a dump of all the art and put it on a photo display on my wall...

Is this museum the one with the basement where there is an exhibition with giant painting and low lights? I got lost there once. It was amazing.

It's the museum with The Night Watch (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night_Watch) which is a giant painting, but the two times I've been there it has been pretty well lit. And not in the basement. But yeah, it's an amazing museum.

My grandma who lives near Amsterdam always told me most people who live in Amsterdam know the museum more from the biking lane that goes through it then the art that is inside it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjgyL6aUOcc this is a video of the Rijksmuseum and the bike line through it.

Thanks, I think I have mixed it up with the Van Gogh Museum. I should check out the Night Watch next time.

I may not have the eyes of a connoisseur, but I don't find anything exciting about these paintings when compared to the real structures like these [1] constructed 1000 years ago.

[1] https://twitter.com/truejainology/status/1352458920011284484...

I agree! You might be interested to hear about the Iraivan temple of Kaua'i which is under construction now

Is there a list somewhere of all the museums that have their artwork online?

having checked some images - they offer 4500x4500 variants at ~4.5MB .. so roughly 3TB of data. Maybe artvee.com will import them into their collection?

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