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The Benefits of Digital Art Viewing

What if we stopped trying to replace the experience of viewing art in real life? What if we saw digital art viewing as something completely different with benefits exclusive to the digital medium?

If you are reading this, you have likely switched your art viewing experience almost exclusively online. While technology is helpful in mitigating some of our isolation and yearning to view artwork in real life, it can leave us wanting, because it simply is not a replacement for the experience of viewing art in person with our own eyes. 

Robert, Hubert, 1733-1808 The Roman Sketchbook – Credit: Purchased as the gift of the Fellows with the special assistance of an anonymous contribution from a foundation.

For instance, if we visit a museum that has an artist’s sketchbook on display, it is our great joy to view a page from that book with our naked eye. That is an irreplaceable experience. Another joy however, made possible only because of digital collections, is not only leafing through all the pages of the sketchbook but also zooming in on tiny details with great resolution. 

Detail: Robert, Hubert, 1733-1808. The Roman Sketchbook
Detail: Robert, Hubert, 1733-1808. The Roman Sketchbook

Additionally, we can curate our own show as I have done below. Here are four links I collected with the idea that I would share “Artist Sketchbooks” with the Drawing America audience. Each image links to the actual digitized sketchbook online. 

Edgar Degas Sketchbook Cover – Credit: Thaw Collection.

What are some of  your favorite digital assets that you would like to share with your fellow members? Comment below.

Cézanne, Paul, 1839-1906 – Sketchbook Credit: Thaw Collection, gift in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Morgan Library and the 50th Anniversary of the Association of Fellows.
Hubert Robert: Roman Sketchbook
Hubert Robert: Roman Sketchbook – Credit: Purchased as the gift of the Fellows with the special assistance of an anonymous contribution from a foundation.
Beatrix Potter, 1866-1943 : Credit: Gift of Colonel David McC. McKell, 1959.
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Responses

  1. As a museum professional, I should cringe at the thought of replacing the face to face experience with a digital experience. And although the though remains cringeworthy when it comes to large oil paintings or anything three dimensional, I would make an exception for drawings. Drawings are hard to see at the distance of twelve inches and in the conservation approved light. There is nothing like a high res. digital photos of a drawing with zooming capabilities to fully understand a sheet, to grasp the dialog between the paper and the ink or graphite, to understand the trajectory of a line, or the secrets of the thicks and thins. Only the digital details of a drawing photographed by a professional under the best lighting conditions will fully reveal the way the paper grain affects the marks left by the artist’s brush, pencil, or pen. And then there is the issue of taking out drawings from the dark and cold safety of the vaults. They never stay on display for very long lest they should be affected by heat, humidity, and light.

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