Once in a while, though, we like to share Resources with you that we think you will find valuable just for their own sake. We enjoy them, and we think you will, too.
One such Resource is a remarkable database of paintings called SightsWithin. This web site is remarkable for several reasons.
For one thing, it is a depository of high-resolution images of beautiful paintings—and nothing else. Individual paintings may be accessed from an alphabetical list of painters. For most painters, a generous selection of his or her work is provided. However, accompanying each painting there is just a title and a date. No critical commentary. No other annotation of any sort. This approach makes for an unusually clean and elegant presentation, which is a joy in itself.
But the most impressive thing about this collection is the nature of the selection. While there appears to be no statement of purpose on the site, the painters represented in the collection seem to have been chosen for the inward-looking, spiritual nature of their vision.
Another feature of this collection that makes it quite unusual is the fact that the little-known painters in it outnumber the famous ones.
Of course, there are many celebrated painters and well-known paintings in the collection, as well. Take, for example, the great German Romantic, Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840), and in particular his early ink-on-paper study, View from the Painter’s Studio (1805–1806, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), shown above—a highlight of the exhibition, Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York during the spring of 2011.
This painting seems merely to depict a prosaic scene on the Elbe River in Dresden. Yet, at the same time it makes palpable the way in which human consciousness (or spirit or soul) functions as our window onto existence. As such, the painting is in perfect keeping with the apparent theme of the SightsWithin web site.
However, painters and paintings of this stature are in a distinct minority in this collection. Not only is there no van Gogh to be found in it, there is no Vermeer. Not only no Picasso or Francis Bacon, but no Georges de La Tour, no Jean-Baptiste Chardin, and no Vilhelm Hammershoi. So, the criterion cannot simply be the spirituality or interiority exhibited by the painter in his or her work. In this respect, the collection appears to be a work in progress.
Nevertheless, it is instructive to be reminded of how many men and women have created magnificent works of art, only to be all but forgotten. Of the 160 painters represented in this database, more than two thirds were men or women whose names we had never heard of before. And many of their paintings were revelations.
We highly recommend that you check them out.