The beginning of the new year was not the only exciting thing that happened on January 1. Public Domain Day traditionally takes place on the first day of each year, which means that a bunch of works of art, literature, films, musical pieces, and more enter the public domain. This year, the copyright expiration on Steamboat Willie, the earliest cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse, was one of the most long-awaited additions to the list of free-to-use objects of cultural heritage by far. However, one cannot go past the various works of visual art, which are now also considered publicly available in the United States.
Works of Art That Became Copyright-Free on Public Domain Day 2024
Edward Hopper, Night Windows
Edward Hopper was an American painter who became famous around the world for his realistic but hauntingly ambient pieces, such as Nighthawks (featured image). Loneliness, the city, and the night were his favorite subjects to explore. In 2024, another one of his paintings, Night Windows, entered the public domain. It depicts a woman wearing a nightgown, partially concealed from the viewer’s gaze and unaware of being perceived. Like many other of Hopper’s works, this piece evokes a sense of unease by imposing a voyeuristic role on the audience.
Georgia O’Keeffe, East River from the Shelton Hotel
Georgia O’Keeffe, one of history’s most prominent female artists and the mother of Modernism, was often inspired by the world around her. In 1925, she moved into an apartment on the 30th floor of the Shelton Hotel. This particular piece belongs to the series of New York skyscrapers. O’Keeffe painted a dull and monotone picture of the city with which she had a complex love-and-hate relationship.
C. Escher, Tower of Babel
The woodcut print by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher, titled Tower of Babel, is notable for several reasons. First, it offers a unique interpretation of the well-known story of the Tower of Babel. Escher chose to picture the Biblical tower from above, whereas many illustrators before him did so from below. Second, the artist showcased his impeccable understanding of perspective and preference for unconventional viewpoints, which would become the staples of his work later on.
With AI-generated art rapidly becoming a fact of life and such important cultural icons as Mickey Mouse becoming copyright-free on Public Domain Day, the discussion surrounding copyright promises to get even more heated. Plus, since appropriation art is nothing new, there is a solid reason to believe we will see an influx of new artwork reimagining our beloved character very soon.