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Painting: Chamber of Art and Curiosities, Frans Francken the Younger

(Extraordinary) Works of Art Soon to Be in the Public Domain


Woolf, Chaplin, Stravinsky, William Carlos Williams, Keaton, Borges, Matisse, Kandinsky, Duchamp and many more are among the creators of work that will soon belong to everyone.

Among the many gifts we receive from time, one of the most exciting is a great work of art with no owner. Every year, more and more works – among them, books, films, music and works of art – enter into the public domain. Whenever it happens, works can be republished without the payment of rights. They can be compiled in anthologies. They can be reproduced or republished by anyone. And they can also be dissected, transformed, and used to create new works of art (one of the most fertile areas of all current creative work). When they cease to be the property of someone, such works can also be shared and given away by anyone and for everyone.

Every year, new works of art become part of the public domain, depending on the copyright laws that govern them and these can vary according to country. The period of time can range from 50 to 100 years after the death of a creator. Every new year, like every Christmas, brings new gifts, and as of January 1, 2019, the public domain will receive an enormous number of works from the second decade of the twentieth century, a particularly prolific and vibrant period.

The treasures include works by artists like Virginia Woolf, William Carlos Williams, Marcel Proust, Gibran Khalil Gibran, George Bernard Shaw, Sigmund Freud, e e cummings, Rainer Maria Rilke, Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, Joseph Conrad and Pablo Neruda in the field of literature. Also new to the public domain will be films by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, two founding geniuses of cinematography, as well as art works by Matisse, Duchamp, Escher, Kandinsky, Max Ernst, Man Ray and compositions by the great Igor Stravinsky and Bela Bartok, to name only a few.

From 2019 and onwards, each new year will bring outstanding works of art that will become part of the world’s heritage, each made 95 years ago. Here’s a brief selection of the works that will belong to us as of next year (each created in 1923)…



* The Ten Commandments, Cecil B. DeMille.

* A long list of films from the silent era which includes Charlie Chaplin’s The Pilgrim and Our Hospitality by Buster Keaton.

* Little-known short films by Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and The Little Rascals.

* Beautiful old cartoons like those of Felix the Cat.

* The silent film The Little Napoleon, in which Marlene Dietrich debuted, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.’s and Fay Wray’s first films.


* Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

* Cane by Jean Toomer.

* The Prophet by Jalil Gibran.

* The Ego and the Id of Sigmund Freud.

* Towards an Architecture by Le Corbusier.

* Whose Body?, the first novel by Dorothy L. Sayers in which appeared her famous character Lord Peter Wimsey.

* Two of Agatha Christie’s novels in which the character Hercule Poirot appears: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and The Murder on the Links.

* The Prisoner, Volume 5 of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

* The complete works of Anthony Trollope.

* The play, Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw.

* Short stories by Christie, Virginia Woolf, H.P. Lovecraft, Katherine Mansfield, and Ernest Hemingway.

* Poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay, e e cummings, William Carlos Williams, Rainer Maria Rilke, Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, Sukumar Ray and Pablo Neruda.

* Also works by Jane Austen, D.H. Lawrence, Edith Wharton, Jorge Luis Borges, Mikhail Bulgakov, Jean Cocteau, Italo Svevo, Aldous Huxley, Winston Churchill, G.K. Chesterton, Maria Montessori, Lu Xun, Joseph Conrad, Zane Gray, H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs.


* Bird in Space by Constantin Brâncuşi.

* Odalisque with Raised Arms by Henri Matisse.

* The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (or The Large Glass) by Marcel Duchamp.

* Metempsychosis by Yokoyama Taikan.

* And multiple works by M. C. Escher, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Max Ernst and Man Ray.

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