On July 1, the museum quietly released Monet Paintings and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago, a scholarly catalogue covering 47 paintings and drawings by the famous French Impressionist. “No big deal,” you might be saying right now. “The Art Institute is known for their Monet collection, and they publish books all the time. This seems like normal news,” you might follow up with.
Think again, wise guy. First of all, this is no standard book. It’s a digital scholarly catalogue accessible on any computer or iPad with an internet connection. Funded by the Getty Foundation and the David and Mary Winton Green Nineteenth-Century Research Fund, Monet Paintings and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago is our first complete volume for the Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI), started in 2009 by the Getty. At the end of July, we’ll release a volume on Renoir; volumes on Pissarro, Manet, Gauguin, and our Roman art collection will follow in 2015.
But back to Monet. Now, if this were a standard printed book (which we still love!), we estimate it would be at least 1,300 pages. Moving to an online platform isn’t just a matter of size, though. It also allows us to include a range of tools and features that would be impossible on a sheet of paper. Entries on each artwork include high-res imagery that readers can zoom into close enough to see the artist’s brushstrokes. “Slider” images allow a reader to move smoothly between, say, a standard view of Monet’s The Beach at Sainte-Adresse (the second image pictured above) to an infrared reflectogram of the same painting (the first image) to gain a deeper understanding of Monet’s process and techniques. With this technology, you can see that Monet once intended to have a group of people walking along the water near the bottom right corner of the painting. Those people were painted over in the final version.
Of course, we’ve also included everything you would find in a printed book—in-depth curatorial entries, impeccably-detailed conservation reports, an expansive glossary, loads of comparative and archival images, footnotes galore, and comprehensive biographies of the collectors who helped build the Art Institute’s collection. Plus, the volume is peer reviewed and fully citable (we don’t take the “scholarly” in OSCI lightly).
Finally, remember that theoretical 1,300-page book I mentioned? It would weigh at least 15 pounds and would probably cost hundreds of dollars. Monet Paintings and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago, on the other hand, is completely free and, as mentioned, available right now on your computer or iPad.* So, what are you waiting for?
*Use the latest versions of Chrome, Safari, or Firefox for best results!
Image Credit: Claude Monet. The Beach at Sainte-Adresse, 1867. Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Larned Coburn Memorial Collection.