Rijksmuseum remix
October 31, 2012 11:27 AM   Subscribe

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, home to Rembrandt's The Night Watch and Vermeer's The Milkmaid, among many other masterpieces, today unveiled the Rijksstudio, 125,000 digitized images of its collections, available in a zoomable interface online or as high-resolution public-domain downloads (account creation required for the latter).
posted by Horace Rumpole (31 comments total) 76 users marked this as a favorite

 
When I visited the museum it seems as though almost every painting had a jar of urine depicted in it somewhere. Then I discovered the Dutch shelf toilet and realized it was a thing.
posted by srboisvert at 11:34 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is so awesome. Going to the Rijksmuseum was the highlight of going to Amsterdam for me. There is so much fabulous stuff there!
posted by OmieWise at 11:34 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


We've had a lot of these "So-and-So Museum has Digitized its Collection and Made it Available Online" FPPs lately and I have to say ... it is an awesome trend.

Here. I will share with all of you an online archive of digitized imagery that I uncovered as part of a web project, which images also happen to be copyright free because the Federal government commissioned the originals way, way back when: The USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection.

I'm fond of this orange and this avocado.
posted by notyou at 11:37 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fantastic, thanks Horace Rumpole!
posted by carter at 11:42 AM on October 31, 2012


*makes a series of otter-like noises*
posted by The Whelk at 11:53 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank god this is becoming a trend. I have stumbled across a few collections that offer excellent digital copies but there are still SO MANY amazing works where I have to get by on just what's out there - Dore's "Enigma," Cockerel's "The Professor's Dream," and others recently, for instance. Will be scraping through this collection soon! Thanks for the heads up!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:56 AM on October 31, 2012


I actually came here to comment that great art ceases to be great art when you don't have to take a pilgrimage to see it. You don't experience it in a grand temple built for it's viewing. People introduced to these great works are now introduced through an interface with hearts and scissors and even when loading the links above you are presented with with a zoomed in view. Though I note that the Rijkstudio site has that nifty color swatch below the fold, so you can find paintings in their collection that have that same dominant color. (Complete with false hits like this one.) That'll help some interior decorators out there and sell some reproductions. On clicking around their interface I see that they are setup to sell postcard to canvas sized reproductions of everything.

I know that it would be impossible for a museum to show their entire collection at once the way they could online, and it's great that they've openly shared it. But if you want to see a great painting, to really marvel at how the light catches the paint, you need to step away from the computer and go out seek it out!
posted by Catblack at 12:06 PM on October 31, 2012


We've had a lot of these "So-and-So Museum has Digitized its Collection and Made it Available Online" FPPs lately and I have to say ... it is an awesome trend.

Fuuuuuuuuck yeah. And I'm happy on 2 distinct fronts:

1. I spent 4 years trying to get a small museum's collection digitized and online, eventually having to leave the museum before the project was finished. And while budget concerns were the biggest problem, there was a lot of hemming, hawing, and foot-dragging along the lines of other museums didn't have their entire collections online, so why should we? I predict a pretty big snowball effect when museums start seeing this as the mainstream.

2. And then: a visit to MoMA last month was nearly ruined by idiots standing in big groups taking cell phone pictures of the art. Maybe if people know that professionally-shot, hi-res images are available to look at online, they won't need to take their own pictures and can instead just look at the fucking art and let others do so as well.
posted by COBRA! at 12:11 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I actually came here to comment that great art ceases to be great art when you don't have to take a pilgrimage to see it.

I suspect the art will be OK one way or the other. Nobody's suggesting, the Rijksmuseum least of all, that online images dispense with any reason to see it in person. In fact, they are just completing a long and expensive renovation of their building to ensure that everyone who wants to visit can. The more ways you can find to make art a presence in people's lives, the more they will want to experience it for themselves.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:11 PM on October 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


Great post to celebrate Vermeer's birth date. Thanks!
posted by effluvia at 12:23 PM on October 31, 2012


I actually came here to comment that great art ceases to be great art when you don't have to take a pilgrimage to see it.

I came here to comment that great art is great art, however you see it.
posted by Pendragon at 12:25 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


But for those of us who are trapped in, say, Ohio without the means to travel off to Amsterdam, who still enjoy great art and would really love to appreciate The Milkmaid, this is a pretty fantastic thing.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:31 PM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


As someone having the Schiphol-Amsterdam Centraal train as part of his daily commute, I think people who are trapped in Ohio are awesome.

But of course you're still welcome. I'm just grumpy. You're looking for platform 13a. No, 13b doesn't go to the airport. I'm sure, yes.
posted by dhoe at 12:38 PM on October 31, 2012


I liked seeing the Milkmaid and the Night Watch this way. Also, I saw some interesting art from artists I wasn't familiar with, including a striking statue of Guanyin.
posted by dragonplayer at 12:47 PM on October 31, 2012


(The female monkey trainer is my favorite so far)
posted by ChuraChura at 12:51 PM on October 31, 2012


I actually came here to comment that great art ceases to be great art when you don't have to take a pilgrimage to see it

Elitist nonsense. If an artwork can only be enjoyed in a museum, which of course in the case of the Nachtwacht, was never meant for one but rather as a poncy showpiece for what was the 17th century Dutch equivalent of the Michigan Militia, only slightly more respectful, it's not good art.

Insisting that you can't appreciate its beauty and grandeur without visiting it in person is like insisting that a Motown single created to sound good over a small handheld FM radio's speakers can only be appreciated on a $50,000 hi-fi installation with gold cabled speakers...
posted by MartinWisse at 12:58 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


" . . . great art ceases to be great art when you don't have to take a pilgrimage to see it."

No, it doesn't.
posted by Phyllis Harmonic at 1:23 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Public Domain? This is the greatest thing EVER. Huge praise for the Museum and its bold move.
posted by alasdair at 2:02 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


" . . . great art ceases to be great art when you don't have to take a pilgrimage to see it."

I have to say I also disagree with this statement, at least the way it's phrased.

Instead what I would say is that merely viewing a repro of a painting online or in a book does not fully substitute for the real thing. And I only fully grokked that myself on a trip to the Rijksmuseum. I'd always heard that Vermeer was this great artist, but seeing pictures of his work had never really grabbed my attention. "Fine, he was an excellent painter for his time" or something like that - I just didn't see anything really special about his work.

Until I saw his pieces for real in the Rijksmuseum, where, no exaggerating, I found myself staring at them and thinking "mere paint is not supposed to be able to do that..." The vibrance of the light in them was just amazing. I've always considered myself an art lover, and I thought I knew what I was talking about, but there I was at age 35ish just totally blown away like I was seeing art as a whole new thing again.

I am certainly not saying that digitizing art collections is bad - it's totally awesome and wonderful. I just do hope that it doesn't lead everyone to falsely think they know enough about works to not bother going to see the real things.
posted by dnash at 2:03 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I want to see physical art in its setting, but the museum is not the "real" or designed setting for some of it. And I'm delighted to see digital versions of what I can't get to physically.
posted by immlass at 2:12 PM on October 31, 2012


I always appreciated that the Rijks let me snap away to my heart's content (while the Van Gogh museum wouldn't permit photography at all). This may replace my super-hi-res photos of certain works (permitting me to zoom in and see the brush strokes, if I want), but to agree with dnash, it doesn't replace seeing it in the flesh. The enormity of the The Night Watch, on its own, is something I never quite grokked before seeing it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:36 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Insisting that you can't appreciate its beauty and grandeur without visiting it in person is like insisting that a Motown single created to sound good over a small handheld FM radio's speakers can only be appreciated on a $50,000 hi-fi installation with gold cabled speakers...

For a lot of paintings, especially ones where texture is a major factor of the aesthetic, seeing it in person is better than seeing a digital image. That said, publishing this online doesn't detract from the original artwork, but lets more people see it and for those of us who don't live near Rijksmuseum it's brilliant news if only I didn't have work to do tomorrow. I love that you can save the pictures or part of them and buy a reproduction on the spot. Well done, whoever greenlighted and implemented this!
posted by ersatz at 5:27 PM on October 31, 2012


I actually came here to comment that great art ceases to be great art when you don't have to take a pilgrimage to see it.

Given the option, I choose to live in a world where "great art" is not restricted to those with the means and ability to undertake a pilgrimage to see it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:46 PM on October 31, 2012


I’m having a great time browsing their collections: this site is such a pleasure to use… I’d love it if more major museums could put together sites like this one and the Prado’s Goya site mentioned here recently.
posted by misteraitch at 2:24 AM on November 1, 2012


This is why I love Metafilter most of the time.
posted by kuanes at 4:14 AM on November 1, 2012


...great art ceases to be great art when you don't have to take a pilgrimage to see it.

My experience has been that great art becomes even greater once you see it in-person.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:53 AM on November 1, 2012


This is a great development, and I wish every gallery and museum could and would do it. When I'm visiting a gallery in a place I've never or rarely visited, I take photos of particular works (if photography is allowed, and never with a flash) not because I'm trying to make perfect reproductions for nefarious purposes, but to flag them in my own memory, so that I can remember what I really liked; the photos are mental triggers. And if I want to do that, I have to do it while I'm walking around the gallery; the alternative of buying a postcard in the gallery shop at the end doesn't usually work, because most of the time they won't have that specific image.

That doesn't mean I want to join the crowds flocking to take their own personal snaps of the Mona Lisa. (When I was in the Louvre, I snapped the crowd instead, with Mona out of shot.) The paintings I'm trying to photograph and remember are the surprising ones, the ones that aren't widely known beyond the gallery's regular visitors. Sometimes they'll be lesser-known paintings by famous artists; sometimes they'll be exquisite works by painters I've never heard of, who will never get their own printed gallery catalogue. Those also tend to be the ones that don't have a crowd in front of them, so photographing them is rarely disruptive.

If a gallery shuts down that opportunity by banning photography, they turn a visit into something different: it becomes not an experience and a resource, but just an experience. Sure, you can spend over the odds on a gallery guide with reproductions of their major works, which I've done my share of, and that's no doubt one of their reasons for banning photography - but it won't have all the work, and it probably won't have that beautiful little thing you found tucked away in a side-room in a less-visited wing. It's not that visiting a gallery as an experience is a bad thing - Durn Bronzefist's mention of the Van Gogh Museum reminds me how brightly some of its paintings still burn in my memory, twenty years on - and the vividness of those physical visits is why any kind of reproduction will never be a threat to the relevance and attraction of visiting the galleries themselves. But shutting off the possibility of the visit being more than that is a shame.

If all the works are online, though, the visit itself can be free of all that. You can wander around the physical gallery without taking photos, and then explore the virtual one to find out more about the particular works you liked. If you're carrying a smartphone, you can even do both in parallel. But it only truly works if the virtual gallery is comprehensive.

I was in Zurich for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and visited the main gallery there (which had the most Giacomettis I've ever seen). In the first half of the visit I took a few photos, having seen someone else doing it; then a guard said keine Fotografie and I had to stop. But because of those few photos of paintings and their labels, I'm now reminded of a Swiss post-Impressionist I'd never heard of, whereas my memories of the rest will mostly just drift away.
posted by rory at 6:46 AM on November 1, 2012


The most impressive print-to-canvas transformation I've experienced is with this painting. It's nice enough digitally reproduced, but breathtaking in person.

Not at the Rijks, though.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:06 AM on November 1, 2012


Lots of Australian museums can't stop complaining that they don't have the money for this. And Australia is economically better off than most of Europe right now. So how come they are being so much more awesome than us?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:53 PM on November 1, 2012


I don't know much about Australian art museums, but the National Library's site Trove is extremely impressive.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:36 PM on November 1, 2012


I don't know much about Australian art museums, but the National Library's site Trove is extremely impressive.

Yeah, it's awesome. The Powerhouse Museum digital collection search is pretty cool too.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:44 PM on November 1, 2012


« Older Not-Hurricane Sandy turned over a hundred-year-old...  |  Some are strong, and some are ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments