The Met has 1600 Free Art Books Online. Here are Five of the Best.

The Metropolitan Museum of art in NEw york has been building a catalogue of art books for fifty years, many of which are still in print. This extensive coverage of their own collection (and others) holds an encyclopedia like knowledge of classical art and artifacts. This cheeky list does not even scratch the surface of what is available in their online catalog, but is meant to a sample of what this booklist contains. The Met has seen fit to offer, to one degree or another, their entire list of 1600 and more books online. So quit your art program now, all you need to know is online. Think of how happy your parents will be. Just think.

American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765–1915

Consisting of more than 200 painting and images, American Stories is nothing less than an accounting of everyday american life from 1765 to 1915. Each painting finds ways both subtle and vulgar to express the deceptively complex lives of common people in everyday situations. It is history told through images and contextualized by the eye of the artist. Unfortunately, this valuable book is offered for free, which means the Met has missed the point of American history entirely so the art must not very good. Zero out of four stars.

Art and the Empire City: New York 1825-1865

The transformation of New York in the decades leading up to the civil was also a transformation of the arts. Craftsmen poured into the Empress city of the West from all over the globe, creating a cultural nexus that grew in scope and sophistication. As the city’s wealth grew, so did its appetites, promoting the construction of its many cultural temples, including the Met itself. 

The Art of Precolumbian Gold

Gold! Gooold! Please your inner conquistador with this collection of mesoamerican artifacts. Rare for the met collection, this edition in mostly in color to showcase the yellow treasures of the early Americas. Through the medium of gold, Aztec and Incan alike expressed ceremonial and personal tastes. This splendor hints at a lost world whose richness was counted in more than material wealth.


The Art of Chivalry

Knights are fucking wicked. This book, like, has all the armor you’ve ever seen, and swords and stuff. Big fucking pikes and spears and badass guns with carved handles and they’re like BANG and peasants are like “take that fancy pants” and men in plate mail are like “I trained for years, this is so unfair” and the peons are like “so is feudalism, bitch” and it’s awesome. Chivalry is awesome.


Bonus Round:

Since it is still in print, not all of it is available online, but the Unicorn Tapestries deserves special mention.  Most of the images already reside in the back of your mind, and you will recognize them as you might a forgotten dream. Let them gallop past your attentions, just out of reach. See their sparkling, and their grace.