Category Archives: Visual Culture

Free digital content from museums


In recent months, several international museums have opened up their digital collections to allow downloads of high resolution images of their artworks. These are some of the best known examples:

Goodbye to Ray Harryhausen


Ray Harryhausen, the genius of visual effects, died on May 7th in London at the age of 92. He will be remembered for his cutting-edge stop-motion animation film monsters, which inspired a generation of film makers including Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, George Lucas and Peter Jackson.

Harryhausen was born Raymond Frederick Harryhausen in Los Angeles in 1920, and from an early age he had an interest in dinosaurs and mythical creatures. When he saw the 1933 version of King Kong, he was inspired to pursue a career in film model animation. He built his models by hand, and filmed them one frame at a time, which gave his animated sequences an unparalleled sense of reality.

The Visual Resources Centre at NCAD has one of Harryhausen’s best known films, Jason and the Argonauts, which includes a famous animated sequence involving an army of living skeletons. According to its creator, the sequence took three months to film.  Our library also stocks Tony Dalton’s book The art of Ray Harryhausen, published by Aurum in 2005.

For more information about Ray Harryhausen, see the Guardian’s Harryhausen obituary.

Visual Resources in 2012


Happy New Year and welcome to the NCAD VR weblog. 2012 was a very fruitful year for anything related to visual resources for art and design education, both at NCAD and in the world at large. A number of projects expanded the availability of digital images and media for use in education, helping both students and lecturers find the material they need more easily. This post summarises some of those developments of the past year.

The Creative Commons Search: Creative Commons is “a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools”. Their Search allows users to find content that can be freely shared and re-used, through image and media sites such as Europeana, Google Images, Flickr, YouTube, and Wikimedia Commons, from one single interface. CC Search can also be added as a plugin to one’s browser, making the business of finding the right images for a lecture or class project that much easier.

ARTstor Additions: ARTstor continues to expand its digital image content, and has recently focused more on contemporary art and architecture. Among the new collections incorporated into ARTstor in 2012 are the following:

NCAD subscribes to the ARTstor Digital Library. For an introduction to the ARTstor database, see the NCAD Image Libraries  page or contact The Visual Resources Centre in the Library.

BMW Tate Live 2012: Performance Room: Through this project, the Tate Gallery commissioned four artists to perform in Tate Modern’s Performance Room. The performances were broadcast live through the Tate’s YouTube Channel, and are now also available as archive footage to view freely online. The four artists commissioned to perform live in 2012 were Jerome Bel, Pablo Bronstein, Emily Roysdon, and Harrell Fletcher. The series will continue in 2013, starting with Suzanne Lacy’s Silver Action performance on February 3rd between 10 am and 4 pm. By making these events freely available online, Tate Modern is providing an invaluable resource for artists and educators alike.

Google Art Project: This project is a collaboration between Google and 151 museums in 40 countries worldwide, which started in 2011, and expanded considerably in 2012. Using a combination of Google technology and the individual museums’ art expertise, “users can explore a wide range of artworks at brushstroke level detail, take a virtual tour of a museum and even build their own collections to share.” The project is currently making over 30,000 artworks and buildings available, and will continue to grow. Although the images cannot be printed, they can be used for educational purposes. In addition, one thousand project images are now available for download in Wikimedia Commons, and can be used for classroom presentations and assignments.

More Museums Offering Free Digital Images for Education: 2012 saw an expansion in the number of museums worlwide who are opening their collections to the public online by offering high-resolution digital images of thousands of their artworks. These include the Rijksmuseum’s Rijksstudio, which offers high-resolution images of 125,000 artworks from their collection; the Prado Museum’s Online Gallery, which allows access to over 1000 high-resolution images; the British Museum’s Collection Database Search, which provides free access to over 700,000 images of objects from the museum, allowing free downloads for educational use and scholarly publication; the National Gallery of Art’s NGA Images, which “offers more than 22,000 open access digital images up to 3000 pixels each, available free of charge for download and use”; or The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, which has made over 18,000 digital images of artworks in its collection available for download from Wikimedia Commons. Since many of these museums are funded through people’s taxes, these initiatives to share their collections more widely are particularly welcome.

Suggestions for Christmas 2012


To continue with our new annual tradition, here is a selection of children’s movies, comedies, thrillers, world cinema, musicals, classic films and documentaries from our growing collection of DVDs in the Visual Resources Centre to cheer you up during the Christmas break. As usual, all NCAD staff and students can borrow up to six films over the holidays. Come and borrow early so you won’t be disappointed. Happy viewing!

Art.sy – the ‘Art Genome’?


A newly launched website, art.sy, has as its mission to make all of the world’s art available to anyone with an internet connection. The website is powered by The Art Genome Project, a collaboration between art historians and computer scientists which studies the characteristics that distinguish and connect works of art. The technology behind it is mostly open source, and for those interested in the techie side of it, the Art.sy Engineering Blog has all the information one could possibly need. The important part, however, is that The Art Genome is a giant taxonomy of art-related concepts. There has been some controversy about the way the project relates artists and artworks – some artists are unhappy about how their work is being categorised-, but the scale of the work, and the combination of art-historical research and computer science is fascinating, and it will be interesting to see whether, as the project grows, the genomes and the relationships they establish between artists and artworks continue to be as meaningful.

The site is particularly strong on contemporary art. Looking at their Browse categories, one can look at artworks by style, contemporary art, subject, medium or technique, and region. Clicking on Conceptualism produces 2,516 results, with artists as varied as Tracey Emin and Ai Wei Wei. The quality of the images is excellent and, although the site’s licensing agreements with their artwork image providers do not allow for image downloads, simply browsing through the site is a great way of learning about art.

Art.sy is also establishing collaborations with contemporary artists, such as this short video of artist Cai Guo Qiang’s work, Sky Ladder.

Art.sy is certainly a project to watch, and a great source of inspiration for art students.

New DVDs September 2012


The new DVD titles acquired by NCAD Library over the summer include landmark television series, family entertainment, classic cinema, edgy new films, and thought-provoking documentaries. This is a selection of twenty of our most recent acquisitions.

Ladislas Starewicz’s animated film in the Internet Archive


Władysław Starewicz (Moscow 1882 – Fontenay-sous-Bois 1965) was a Russian-born animator of Polish parents, who moved to France after the Soviet Revolution of 1917. His stop-motion animation work is imaginative, surreal, daring, and technically highly accomplished, especially since it was made long before the era of CGI. The Internet Archive now has a complete version of one of his best known films, The Mascot. It is the poignant story of a little dog puppet who goes through all sorts of dangers to give an orange to a little girl dying of scurvy. The film was listed by Terry Gilliam as one of the 10 best animated films of all time.

Watch The Mascot

Photos from Kodak’s Picture Contests


Still Life. 1929

Photos from Kodak’s Picture Contests in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s – NYTimes.com.

Here at the Visual Resources Centre we love old black and white photographs. This post from the New York Times “Lens” blog talks about the fantastic collection of photographs submitted to “Kodak Picture Contests” during the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, which are now kept in the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections & Preservation of the Rush Rhees Library at the University of Rochester in New York State. The post has a  slide show  of some of the most interesting photos, and explains the background to those picture contests: Kodak was trying to encourage consumers to buy their cameras and film stock by organising the contests. It is a bit shocking to realise that at present the company are under bankruptcy protection.

The photographs are a fascinating record of life in the United States, and also some other parts of the world, during these three decades. Specially interesting are photographs of New York in the 1930s. The variety of subjects, and the technical competence of these amateur photographers are impressive. One could consider this archive of photographs from Kodak contests as an older and smaller equivalent of Flickr, recording everyday life of that period in all its richness.

Drawing Pictures


Drawing Pictures: A short course on the History of animation

Our very own James Armstrong is teaching this short course on film animation at the Irish Film Institute. The course includes screenings of animated films such as “Pinocchio”, “Paprika” and “A scanner darkly”. It is an enjoyable opportunity to learn more about animated films.

Art of the Title


Have you ever wanted to see a film’s title sequence over and over again, just to enjoy the fabulous graphic design and the anticipation of what is to come? “Artofthetitle” is a blog that allows one to do just that. They describe themselves as “A compendium and leading web resource of film and television title design from around the world”. You can view many great title sequences, read interviews with the film directors and graphic designers who created them, and be kept up to date with film news. A great resource for all you graphic designers out there…