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Art Resources: Finding Images

Find Images for Your Class and Beyond



Getting Started

Images are a great way to spruce up presentations and in art history papers they can be essential to illustrating points and to your instruction. For academic purposes, most images are covered under fair use; but once you get into the real world, that won't always be the case and it's never to early to start learning the gray area of Image Copyright.

Key Terms to Know:

Fair Use: provisions of U.S. copyright law allow use of copyrighted materials on a limited basis for specific purposes without the permission of the copyright holder.

Four factors usually considered to determine fair use are:

  1. The Purpose and Character of the Use
  2. The Nature of the Copyrighted Work
  3. The Amount and Relative Significance of the Portion of the Work Used
  4. The Effect on the Potential Market for the Copyrighted Work

Generally, images in instruction or academic course assignments fall under the fair use category because the purpose is for education. To read more about what needs to be considered for Fair Use to apply, check out Using Images from the Web: A Guide to "Fair Use".

Public Domain: items (including images) are considered in the public domain when they are unprotected by copyright or patent, and are subject to use and modification by anyone.


Image Collections Online

Many museums and institutions have began putting images of their artwork online that are in the public domain for free downloading and use.

For example:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has made over 400k images available online, with 200k images in the public domain and free to use. You can narrow your search results down by the public domain images as seen in the picture below:


Other Museum Image Collections to Check Out include:

How To Cite an Image

Painting, Sculpture, Photograph (Physical Object)


Artist Last Name, First Name. Title of Artwork. Date of composition, medium, Institution that houses the piece, Location of Institution (if not in name of Institution).


Biggers, John. Ascension. 1992, acrylic on canvas, Winston-Salem State University.

Online Image from Database/Website


Artist Last Name, First Name. "Title of Artwork." Date of composition, medium, publisher, database, URL. Access date.


Siever, Kim. "Cardston Alberta Temple." Photograph, Flickr, Accessed 17 October 2018.


Finding Copyright-Free Images on Flickr

What is the Creative Commons?

Currently in the US, any work created since 1978 is automatically copyrights for the life of the creator plus 70 years. In recognizing the need for creators to build off the works of others, the Creative Commons licenses were created to allow creators to make their work available for others to use. There are six different creative commons licenses:


Attribution CC BY

This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.


Attribution ShareAlike CC BY-SA

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.


Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND

This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.


Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.


Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND

This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.