By accessing the Birmingham Museum of Art’s website and image gallery, you agree to the Museum’s Terms of Use and any additional terms listed below.

Open Content Program

The Birmingham Museum of art makes available digital images of works in the Museum’s collection believed to be in the public domain. Images are available free of charge for any use, commercial or non-commercial. Users do not need to contact the Museum for authorization to use these images. They are available through the Online Collection at See detailed instructions for specific work types below.

Identifying Open Content Images

The mission of the Birmingham Museum of Art is to spark the creativity, imagination, and liveliness of Birmingham by connecting all its citizens to the experience, meaning, and joy of art. The Museum understands that by sharing images of works online without restrictions, the BMA collection becomes more accessible to a larger audience.

For objects with images the rights status is displayed in the “credit line” section of the object information. The rights status or rights holder will be indicated. If the work is in the public domain and/or the image may be downloaded, the download icon will appear in the bottom right corner of the image area. To search the collection click here.

Works With Restrictions

For copyright-protected images that have been approved by copyright holders, a presentation-sized image is available, but can not be downloaded. A copyright statement clearly listing the name of the copyright holder is visible in the credit line area when the image is displayed. Thumbnail-sized images of copyrighted works are displayed under fair use.

When the owner of a work is impossible to determine or contact, the work is deemed an orphan work. The Museum will make thumbnails of orphan works available. If you are the representative or rights holder of an orphan work, please contact Rights and Reproductions.


Please use the following source credit when reproducing an Open Content image: Courtesy Birmingham Museum of Art, followed by the credit line provided in the object description.

Although there are no restrictions or conditions of the use of an Open Content image, the BMA would appreciate a gratis copy of any scholarly publication(s) in which the images are reproduced in order to maintain collection bibliography. Copies may be sent to the attention of:

Open Content Program
Digital Media Department
The Birmingham Museum of Art
2000 Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd
Birmingham, AL 35203


  • If an image is not available under Open Content it may be because the work is still under copyright, the work is not owned by the museum, or the work has not yet been photographed to BMA standards.
  • Request Images: If an image of a work is not available online or is under copyright, you may submit a request through our online request form. You may also request files in additional sizes or formats. A fee will be charged for this service.
  • Our determination of public domain is made in good faith.
  • Electronic records are based on historical information and may not be the Museum’s complete or current knowledge about an object. Research is ongoing.
  • The ‘On View’ status may be delayed on the website by 24 hours. Please check with our Rights and Registration Office to confirm that a work of art will be on view before traveling to the Museum.
  • For additional details and additional terms of use, please see the Birmingham Museum of Art’s Terms of Use Page

Prison Scene from J. Fenimore Cooper’s “The Pilot”: “Cecelia Howard and Katherine Plowden arousing the prisoner Edward Griffith from his slumber.”

Thomas Sully


The Philadelphia painter Thomas Sully is best known for his portraits, having painted approximately two thousand in his long career. However, in the late 1830s, with portrait commissions drying up, Sully began to produce works that appealed to popular tastes, including sentimental and literary subjects, which he referred to as his fancy pictures. Among the works derived from literary sources are Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire (1839), based on the popular fairy tale; Little Nell Asleep in the Curiosity Shop (1841), from Charles Dickens’ novel The Old Curiosity Shop; and this painting, depicting a scene from James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pilot.

Written in 1824, The Pilot is loosely based on John Paul Jones’s daring naval exploits during the Revolutionary War. Sully depicts Cecelia Howard and her cousin Katherine Plowden at the moment they locate Cecelia’s fiancé Edward Griffith, an American lieutenant who has been jailed by the British. The original passage by Cooper reads:

The moment had now arrived when the character of Cecelia Howard appeared to undergo an entire change. Hitherto she had been led by her cousin, whose activity and enterprise seemed to qualify her so well for the office of guide; but now she advanced before Katherine, and, extending her lamp in such a manner as to throw the light across the face of the sleeper, she bent to examine his countenance, with keen and anxious eye.

  • Titles Prison Scene from J. Fenimore Cooper's "The Pilot": "Cecelia Howard and Katherine Plowden arousing the prisoner Edward Griffith from his slumber." (Proper)@Prison Scene from J. Fenimore Cooper's THE PILOT (Former title)
  • Artist Thomas Sully, American, born England, 1783 - 1872
  • Medium oil on canvas
  • Dimensions 37 x 28 in. (94 x 71.1 cm) frame: 42 1/2 × 34 5/8 × 2 3/4 in. (108 × 87.9 × 7 cm)
  • Credit Line Museum purchase in honor of Richard Murray, former director, with funds provided by Dr. Walter Clark, EBSCO Industries, Mr. John Jemison, Jr., Dr. Cameron McDonald, Dr. John Poynor, Mrs. Alys R. Stephens, Mr. Elton B. Stephens, Jr., Mr. Crawford L. Taylor, Jr., and the 1984 Museum Dinner and Ball, 1984.67
  • Work Type painting
  • Classification Paintings