Publications, Scholarship

New Virtual Library Offers over 250 Art Books for Free Download

Getty Publications makes 45 years of art and conservation titles available online, with more to come

45 years of art books for free - Getty Publications Virtual Library

When we launched the Open Content Program last summer and released 4,600 collection images to the public (a number that has since more than doubled), I cited this quote from the most recent museum edition of the NMC Horizon Report: “it is now the mark—and social responsibility—of world-class institutions to develop and share free cultural and educational resources.” This dictum continues to inform our efforts here at the Getty, and today I am very pleased to share with you our latest project in this arena, the Virtual Library: An open, online repository of more than 250 Getty publications from our 45-year publishing history, available as high-quality scans to read online, or to download in their entirety, for free.

I am unabashedly biased about the work we do at the Getty, but I believe you’ll find some extraordinary titles here—made even more extraordinary by the fact that they are now only a single click away. For example, in 2004, the Getty presented the first-ever exhibition of Cézanne’s beautiful watercolor still lifes. The catalogue published with the exhibition was written by scholar Carol Armstrong and is a moving examination of this most subtle and luminous  of mediums and genres. It’s now free in the Virtual Library. So too is the definitive English translation of Otto Wagner’s modernist manifesto, Modern Architecture. Not to mention books on important globe-spanning conservation projects as the wall paintings of Nefertari’s tomb in Egypt, ancient sites along the silk road, and historic adobe buildings in our own earthquake-prone Southern California backyard.

Getty Publications Virtual Library offers 40 years of art books for free

The books in the Virtual Library come from three of the Getty’s programs: the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Research Institute, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. The over 250 offered here today—and the many more we will continue to add into the future—represent a significant portion of our publishing list. Still, they are just a modest part of what is becoming an important, informally networked library, spread across multiple institutions and spanning thousands of years of art historical knowledge. Our virtual library proudly joins those already created by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, LACMA, and others. We hope you will explore and use them all. The books they hold are treasures meant for all, and now easier than ever for all to access and enjoy.

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  1. Chris Allen
    Posted January 21, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Amazing! Thank you for such a wonderful resource.

  2. Tim Reese
    Posted January 21, 2014 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Fabulous idea. A wonderful way to expose people to an art education that they would never have the opportunity to experience in person.

  3. Sherrill
    Posted January 21, 2014 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    Yay! This is another fantastic opportunity. I was so excited to find European Drawings vol 1 on there! I have been checking for it every time I visit the Getty (I already have vols 2-4) on the off chance a copy would show up! I just downloaded it! I can see I will be spending lots of time between these two sites! Thank you!

  4. Allan Chan
    Posted January 23, 2014 at 3:19 am | Permalink

    Thank you very much for opening such an art resources to our art lover.

  5. Des Kilfeather
    Posted January 24, 2014 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    As an artist driven by research having access to such beautiful material is wonderful and helps develop my practice. But of much greater significance is making art freely accessible to those people in the world who would never be able to engage with it otherwise, due to health disadvantage, financial disadvantage, country of residence or cultural barriers. Congratulations!

  6. Bren Vignaroli
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    THIS is as awesome as it gets!! Thank you SO MUCH for this wonderful “gift”…an opportunity for all to enjoy!

  7. navaneethakrishnan
    Posted December 28, 2014 at 10:18 pm | Permalink


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      #ProvenancePeek: Titian in Boston

      Every art object has a story—not only of how it was made, but of how it changed hands over time until it found its current home. That story is provenance.

      Portrait of a Man Holding a Book, in the collection of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, is no exception. The MFA carefully details the painting’s Italian provenance on its collection page, but the path of this object even since then is complex.

      Between 1901 and 1907, Portrait of a Man Holding a Book entered the stock of no less than three galleries, purchased from the Italian family who owned it first by Agnew’s in London, then by Trotti in Paris, and then by Cottier in New York (marking its movement from the Old World to the New). A collector purchased it from Cottier, and the painting was held privately for 36 years.

      That collector was Frederick Bayley Pratt (1865–1945), son of Charles Pratt, oil magnate and founder of the Brooklyn Institute that bears his family’s name (incidentally, this writer’s alma mater!). 

      The Knoedler Gallery dealt frequently with members of the Pratt family. A quick peek into the searchable database of Knoedler’s stock books turns up nine instances in which a Pratt (Charles and Mary, Frederick’s parents, or Herbert and John, his brothers) bought works, as well as five instances where they sold works. This Titian portrait is one of those instances. Frederick Pratt sold the work to Knoedler in early April of 1943, and by the 10th, it had been snapped up by the Museum of Fine Arts.

      Knoedler shared the sale with Pinakos, an art-dealing concern owned and operated by Rudolf J. Heinemann. Purchasing works in tandem with other dealers was a widespread practice amongst powerful art galleries of the time; nearly 6,000 records in the Knoedler database had joint ownership.

      The stock books of the Knoedler Gallery have recently been transformed into a searchable database that anyone can query for free. You can find this Titian under stock number A2555.

      Portrait of a Man Holding a Book, about 1540, Titian (Tiziano Vecellio). Oil on canvas. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Charles Potter Kling Fund. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; stock and sales books documenting the painting’s sale by M. Knoedler & Co.


      ProvenancePeek is a monthly series by research assistant Kelly Davis peeking into provenance finds from the M. Knoedler & Co. archive at the Getty Research Institute.


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