Monday, January 11, 2021


Interactive mapping libraries such as Leaflet.js are a fantastic, but still underused, resource for presenting and exploring works of art online.However some art galleries have begun to take advantage of the potential of JavaScript mapping libraries to provide interactive mediums for exploring artworks in close detail.

The J. Paul Getty Museum is using Leaflet.js to provide close analysis of some of the amazing paintings in its collection. In a series of essays exploring some of its most famous artworks the museum has used the popular Leaflet.js mapping library to present individual paintings as images which can be panned and zoomed (just like a Google Map). 

For example in this essay about Claude Monet's Sunrise (Marine) the museum discusses the beginnings of the Impressionist movement, paying close attention to the three Monet paintings 'Sunrise (Marine)', 'Impression, Sunrise' and 'Fishing Boats Leaving the Port of Le Havre'. You can view more of the Getty Museum's essays (featuring interactive paintings) on this PDF, Paintings, Scholarly Essays.

If you are familiar with the Leaflet.js mapping library then you can also create your own interactive painting critiques - using image tiles from paintings instead of the usual map tiles. Museums and art galleries around the world use the iiif format to present artworks as zoomable images. This means that for many works of art, if they have a iiif manifest, you don't even have to create the image tiles for yourself.

The fantastic leaflet-iiif plugin allows you to seamlessly use iiif manifests with the Leaflet mapping platform.This means that you can quickly turn any painting with a iiif manifest into an interactive Leaflet map. You can view a demo of this in action on my own The Drawing Lesson critique. In this scrollytelling examination of Jan Steen's painting (depicting an artist teaching two young pupils how to draw) I have used the Leaflet mapping library to take a close look at Steen's 17th century Dutch masterpiece.

Jason Farago of the New York Times has created some of the finest art critiques, illustrated with interactive paintings. Using scrollytelling interactive maps Farago has closely examined Katsushika Hokusai's "Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji" (in A Picture of Change for a World in Constant Motion), an Albrecht Dürer self portrait (in Seeing Our Own Reflection in the Birth of the Self-Portrait), Thomas Eakins' painting 'The Gross Clinic' (in Taking Lessons From a Bloody Masterpiece) and 'The Death of General Wolfe', painted by Benjamin West in 1770 (in The Myth of North America, in One Painting).

1 comment:

Stu Smith said...

Fascinating. Thanks!