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Public Domain Authors and Artists

Updated on October 10, 2014

Creative works from writers, painters and musicians

The huge volume of work by L. M. Montgomery who wrote the Anne of Green Gables series, and books by prolific American author A. E. Waite, are the most well-known of the publications, paintings and music that entered the public domain in 2013.

Copyright is expiring on the artwork of Grant Wood who painted the famous American Gothic, and the work of Walter Sickert, an important painter from the British avant-garde that some believe was the infamous Jack the Ripper! The oeuvre of modernist artist Ramon Casas from Spain is also part of the public domain. Paintings of another modernist have been freely available since 2011 - Paul Klee, one of the founders of the Bauhaus school.

Learn about native American languages and culture from the "Father of American Anthropology", Franz Boas. Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski studied native cultures in the South Pacific Islands and Australia. Popular authors from Germany, the UK and the United States are also represented.

Music from Scandinavian composers is on the list, and this year a specially prepared selection of surprisingly futuristic music written 100 years ago by Luigi Russolo that was released to coincide with Public Domain Day, celebrated internationally every year on January 1st.

Artists in the Public Domain for 2013

  • Native American languages - Franz Boas
  • Catalonian painter Ramon Casas
  • Anne of Green Gables - L. M. Montgomery
  • Pacific island cultures - Bronislaw Malinowski
  • The Street of Crocodiles - Bruno Schulz
  • Painter Walter Sickert and "The Ripper"
  • Tarot cards and books of A. E. Waite

American Gothic

Source

American Gothic by painter Grant Wood


Grant Wood: A Life
Grant Wood: A Life

Biography of the artists and analysis of his contemporaries in the art world.

 
Public Domain Day! January 1st
Public Domain Day! January 1st

Public Domain defined

The definition of Public Domain is a moving target for many reasons, and the standards used to decide if a book is in the public domain are difficult if not impossible to obey. Always determine the status of copyrights before using text or images from any source.

The general rule of thumb is "life plus 70 years" - the copyright lasts 70 years after the life of the artist, in many countries (except the U.S.) While the copyright is active, only the publisher, the artist and their heirs can collect royalties or income from the sale of the intellectual property.

The artist also controls any "derivative works" that can be licensed to others while the copyright is active. This is the arrangement that an author can have when a large entertainment company buys the "option" to turn their book into a motion picture produced by a major film studio, and the "branded" merchandise created by toy makers, for example. Read more about copyright regulations and celebrate Public Domain Day.

The rule of thumb is inappropriate when the artist was born in another country – with longer expiration dates for copyrights, to as much as 120 years after the life of the artist. Strong commercial forces have extended the copyright to 95 years in the United States. For this reason, there will be few artists from the U.S. that will enter the public domain until the year 2019.

Anne: The Green Gables Collection
Anne: The Green Gables Collection

Collection of all twelve books in the series

 

Lucy Maud Montgomery - Canadian author (1874 - 1942)

Anne of Green Gables was the first book by the author, published in 1908, and the complete series was completed years later with a total of eight books. The setting of the series is the now famous Price Edwards Island where the author was born. Montgomery completed over 500 other publications of short stories and poetry in her long career.

Public domain sources

  1. Anne of Green Gables

    Find a total of 37 public domain titles from the Internet Archive in digital format to read on ipad, mp3 players, PDAs, mobile phones or desktop computer, including audio books of collected short stores.

  2. Books: L. M. Montgomery

    25 digital collections of books, poetry and short stories at Project Gutenberg in standard formats including Plucker and QiOO Mobile.

The Pictorial Key To The Tarot: Being Fragments Of A Secret Tradition Under The Veil Of Divination
The Pictorial Key To The Tarot: Being Fragments Of A Secret Tradition Under The Veil Of Divination

The Pictorial Key To The Tarot is the companion book, with images and interpretation of the cards. Many other sets of tarot cards have been produced before and after, but the Rider Waite tarot remains the standard.

 

A. E. Waite - (1857 - 1942) Authored dozens of esoteric books and articles

Arthur Edward Waite was an American author who brought clarity and modern thinking to the interpretation of ancient manuscripts from early scientists, scholars, saints and sorcerers of the middle ages in Europe.

He joined the secret societies fashionable in the early nineteenth century to get a better understanding of esoteric traditions. More that anything, Waite is known for co-creating the most popular tarot deck in english-speaking countries for understanding the symbols of the major and minor arcana.


The Original Rider Waite Tarot Pack
The Original Rider Waite Tarot Pack

A new "facsimile" edition of the original 1909 edition of the cards was recently printed in brilliant colours from plates that were lost during the bombing of London in WWII.

 

Rider Waite tarot - US Games has (effective) control of the copyright until 2021

After years of research, Waite created this tarot deck with the artist Pamela Colman-Smith to accurately represent the symbols and the universal truths that are the very essence of the tarot.

William Rider And Son of London published the first edition in 1909. The author passed away in 1942, but the artist Colman-Smith, died in 1951. US Games obtained the rights to the property and they have successfully defended their copyright in court until 2021 - based on the life of the illustrator, not the author.

Tarot is much more than a tool of fortune telling and divination. Waite makes an in-depth study of the symbolism and numerology of the 22 cards in the major arcana, and the other 56 cards, which can be understood as a textbook of ancient knowledge. The cards may even have origins in the game of chess, itself an ancient game.

Early editions

Waite was also interested in ceremonies and magic from pagan cultures and religious rituals which can be used for both positive and nefarious purposes.

The Holy Grail: History, Legend and Symbolism (Dover Books on Anthropology and Folklore)
The Holy Grail: History, Legend and Symbolism (Dover Books on Anthropology and Folklore)

The symbolism of the "San Graal" is part of the folklore from many regions of the world over time - from Christianity to Monty Python.

 
The Real History of the Rosicrucians (Forgotten Books)
The Real History of the Rosicrucians (Forgotten Books)

The Brotherhood of the Rose Cross was a legendary fraternity for esoteric knowledge from the Middle Ages in Europe.

 
The Holy Kabbalah (Dover Occult)
The Holy Kabbalah (Dover Occult)

Kabbalah and numerology can also be used to interpret the greater mysteries of existence. The "Tree of Life", and the letters of the alphabet, are closely related to the symbolism of the tarot.

 

Read A. E. Waite online free - See the complete text online, or download ebooks to your mobile device

  1. The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

    Six public domain books to read online about the tarot by A. E. Waite and five other authors. Scroll down the page to get a reading from the Rider Waite deck.

  2. A. E. Waite from the Internet Archive

    Six lesser-known books from the author in six digital formats for Kindle, ePub and PDF readers.

  3. Free Ebooks by Arthur Edward Waite

    10 books about tarot, Rosecrucians, alchemy and magic in PDF format (download small .zip files)

Esoteric arts and science

Symbols of Alchemy and Hermetics

Ancient manuscripts and paintings with symbolic drawings and diagrams are filled with mystery and intrigue. These topics captured the interest of the public recently with bestselling books and popular movies about esoteric science, code breaking and symbols.

American Painter (1860 - 1942)

Walter Richard Sickert

Walter Sickert was born in Germany and moved to London with his parents in 1868. The landscapes in his paintings are not the bucolic outdoors that were fashionable at the time with impressionist painters. Sickert painted scenes from the streets of London and the seedy dance halls of the city. His artwork shocked critics and the general public at the time, as much for the subject matter as his style of painting at the transition of impressionism to "modern" art forms in the early 20th century.

Sickert was a founding member of the Camden Town Group artists that formed in that neighborhood of London during the early part of the 20th century.

Sickert in Venice
Sickert in Venice

Paintings by Sickert from Venice, published together for the first time from an exhibition in 2009.

 

Public domain Sicket paintings

  1. The Art Institute of Chicago has about 15 of his drawings and paintings
  2. Sickert at Wikimedia Commons - 2 works and photo portraits
  3. Sickert online catalog from libraries and museums collections

Ramon Casas i Carba (1866 - 1932)


Casas started as a portrait artist traveling between Paris and his native Barcelona, and even showing his paintings at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

This was the time when Art Nouveau was gaining popularity in France and around the world. Casas is identified with the Modernisme movement in Barcelona which echoed this new style of art from Paris, and the cultural revolution that was happening in Catalonia.

Wikimedia commons has a selection of 55 paintings by Ramon Casas, and see paintings by Casas on Google Art Project.


Franz Boas (1858 - 1942)

Franz Boas started his career struggling with the after-effects of the sensational theories of Charles Darwin which swept through the scientific community after On the Origin of Species was published in 1859. Boaz broke from his colleagues at the Smithsonian Institute, to study the native American languages and culture of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest. Later, he founded the first Ph.D. anthropology program in America at Columbia University.


Bronislaw Malinowski

Polish ethnologist / anthropologist who emigrated to the United Staes during the Second World War and settled into a teaching job at Yale. Argonauts of the Western Pacific is considered his most important contribution to science, with particular emphasis in "participatory observation" where scientists live in close contact with native subjects, working with local "informants" from the group to learn more details about daily activities and rituals.


Anthropology in the public domain

  1. Books about Native American Languages by Franz Boas with 22 works about the Chinook language and the landmark Handbook of American Indian Languages
  2. Bronislaw Malinowski wrote about Fiji, Pacific Rim and Australian aboriginals.

"Industrial" music from 1913

The Art of Noises - Luigi Russolo

Luigi Russolo, an Italian futurist painter and composer cataloged the sounds of the early industrial revolution to create musical scores that predated "industrial noise" music by almost 100 years. Russolo's music would not be out of place in a rock concert in during the 1990s -- in a double billing with bands like Cabaret Voltaire, Joy Division and Kraftwerk, or composers like John Cage. Your patience will be rewarded if you can sit through some of the lovely grating sounds compiled for the 100th anniversary of noise music.

Bruno Schulz (1892 -1942)

Schulz is best known in Poland and the Ukraine for his epic book The Street of Crocodiles, originally titled The Cinnamon Shops ("Sklepy Cynamonowe"), published in 1934 and later adapted for motion pictures and theater.



List of artists added to the public domain in 2013

  • William Pierpont Black - woodcarver (Romania)
  • Franz Boas - anthropologist (Germany)
  • Ernest Bramah - author (United Kingdom)
  • Ramon Casas - painter (Spain)
  • Neel Doff - playwright (Belgium)
  • Leon Daudet - author (France)
  • Violet Hunt - author (United Kingdom)
  • Artturi Jarviluoma - author (Finland)
  • Janusz Korczak - author (Poland)
  • Peadar Toner Mac Fhionnlaoich - author (Ireland)
  • Lucy Maud Montgomery - author (United States)
  • Bronislaw Malinowski - anthropologist (Poland)
  • Robert Musil - author (Austria)
  • Wilhelm Peterson-Berger - composer (Sweden)
  • Eric Ravilious - painter (United Kingdom)
  • Bruno Schulz - author (Poland)
  • Walter Sickert - painter (Germany)
  • Edith Stein - Saint (Germany)
  • Tatu Vaaskivi - author (Finland)
  • Terezia Vansova - author (Slovakia)
  • Grant Wood - painter (United States)
  • Arthur Edward Waite - author (United States)
  • Francis Younghusband - author (United Kingdom)
  • Stefan Zweig - author (Austria)

Have you read any of these Public Domain books? - Comments and questions about the Public Domain

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I just think its so cool that you have put this together....it seems all my reading these day is sitting at the computer, lol ! :)

    • TeacherSerenia profile image

      TeacherSerenia 4 years ago

      I've read a good number of the Anne of Green Gables book, but thats all.