Google’s art site draws BU audience

Van Gogh’s Starry Night is one of the many paintings featured on the Google Art project website. The website,, offers online tours as well as galleries. courtesy photo
Van Gogh’s Starry Night is one of the many paintings featured on the Google Art project website. The website,, offers online tours as well as galleries.
Courtesy Photo

By Mallory Hisler

Seeing a great work of art from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence more clearly on your laptop than in person seems unrealistic.

But Google Art Project is hoping to make viewing art as simple as that.

“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,” according to the website’s information.

The site, which began in 2011 with 17 collections, has grown significantly since its launch. Google announced April 3 that the Art Project now includes works from more than 151 collections.

Jamie Hill, a Google spokesperson, said she hopes a wide range of people will use the site.

“We want everyone who wants to use Art Project to be able to use it — from elementary to AP art history to art history in college,” Hill said. “We are also excited for people who have an interest in art to look at it.”

Google Art Project is not limited to one type of art, but displays many mediums, including sculptures, Brazilian grafitti and African rock art.

“Our partners cover huge ranges — not just paintings,” Hill said. “There is just a huge diversity and breadth of different kinds of content.”

The site provides some works in a super-high-resolution image using gigapixel technology, Hill said. Google also provided technology to the museums that allowed them to create a virtual walk-through of some parts of their collections.

“Essentially, we took street view from Google mapping technology and brought it indoors,” Hill explained.

Dr. Karen Pope, Baylor senior lecturer in art history, appreciates the site, but said important information is missing that should be provided with the images.

“The biggest shortcoming is the dimensions [not being posted with the images],” Pope said.

Hill said Google welcomes input on the project.

“We are continuing to expand and encourage feedback,” Hill said.

She said users can pass along input by emailing or give feedback through the Google+ page for Google Art Project.

Pope also said the site does not list the medium used in the works but otherwise serves as a good resource for art historians.

“The first thing that I saw on it was Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ — and wow,” she said. “I could see her eyelashes, strands of hair, each imperfection. It’s got an awful lot of material at a very high quality.”

She said she believes the project is a great opportunity to get more insight to the artist as well as the painting. “It gives you the closest chance to seeing inside an artist’s head,” she said.

Grapevine senior Alexi Riggins, an art history major, said she has browsed the site but has not used it much in class.

“I have perused the site, and the quality is great,” she said. “I think it’s way better [quality] than ArtStore [an art database that Baylor subscribes to], but ArtStore is quick and sufficient.”

Still, Riggins said she believes any image on a screen cannot be compared to the real thing, citing Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” as an example. “There are just things that you cannot see in 2D that are there in 3D,” she said.

Pope, however, said the images the site uses and the walk-throughs of the museums are a special thing to look at.

“These images are beautiful. They are crystal clear,” Pope said. “Being able to show them in the context of the museum today is something that would be of value.”

The website can be found at