Art, Archaeology, and Architecture (Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives)

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830, Musée du Louvre. Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.;

Through a collaboration with the Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives and Art Resource, Artstor will make available more than 13,000 images of world art and architecture from the archive of photographer Erich Lessing. The majority of images will focus on key artists from major European schools, as well as works in the collections of European museums outside of Italy, including the leading art museums of Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Spain, and, in the near future, Russia. However, a substantial portion of the collection also documents art and architecture in Asia and the Middle East, as well as works in European museums with significant holdings of ancient Near Eastern art, Islamic art, and Judaica. They will be scanned from the large-format color transparencies (4” x 5” or 8” x 10”) that Lessing produced over the course of his distinguished career. They are the products of several decades of photographic campaigns that Lessing undertook all over the world.

According to James Shulman, President of Artstor, "Our ongoing partnership with Art Resource and our new relationship with the Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives represent important milestones in Artstor's ongoing effort to provide teachers, scholars and students with high-quality digital images of key works and monuments of world art.” Thus, initial releases from his collection have targeted the canonic works of world art and architecture that are most frequently consulted by Artstor users, ranging from the Venus of Willendorf to Raphael's Sistine Madonna, and from the da Vinci's Mona Lisa to Manet's Olympia. As such, the Lessing collection represents Artstor's ongoing commitment to improving the image quality of works already in the Digital Library. Many of these high-quality images have also been “clustered” with other Artstor images that depict the same work or offer details of the larger work. Through this clustering process, Artstor seeks to display preferred images of these frequently used works to users, while continuing to provide access to potentially useful duplicates and details. 

Erich Lessing was born in 1923 in Vienna and has spent a lifetime photographing creative works and historical locations - as a photographer for the Associated Press, and later as a member of the photographer's collective, Magnum Photos. While working for publications such as Life, Paris Match, Picture Post, EPOCA, and Quick Magazine, Lessing also documented political events in post-WWII Europe, especially in former Soviet-bloc countries. The Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives comprises over 37,000 large-format color transparencies that document the fine arts, archaeology, religion, landscapes, historical sites, and historical personalities. The archive contains images from over 1,000 museums and 2,000 locations all over the world, representing the works of 3,000 artists and portraits of more than 1,900 historical figures.