The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia has embraced the 21st century a little more firmly by making images of artworks it believes to be in the public domain – 1429 of its 3000 or so – available for download in high resolution.

The Barnes Foundation is named after its founder Albert Barnes, who made his fortune with the invention of an antiseptic product first marketed in 1901. In 1912 he turned to building a collection of paintings, specialising in works by Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists, and in 1922–23, in one trip alone, bought over 100. His collection represents all the great names of early 20th-century art but went on to include Old Master paintings, American modernists works and African sculpture. When he created his foundation, he drew up strict regulations governing its operation. For example, unhappy with the limitations of colour photography technology in the mid 20th century, he forbade reproductions of his works and it was only in the 1990s that a series of books with colour images was published about the collection.

In 2012 the Foundation began to publish its collection online, of which a little over half can be viewed today. However, it is only recently that the museum has determined that 1429 of its works are not under copyright and can thus be downloaded by the public. Now you can enjoy paintings by Renoir, Cézanne, Modigliani, Seurat and dozens of others you would otherwise have had to travel to Philadelphia to appreciate in equal detail.

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