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

Sinking of the Rebel Cruiser “Alabama” by the USS “Kearsage”

Xanthus Russell Smith


This painting—Sinking of the Rebel Cruiser Alabama by the U.S.S. Kearsage—depicts the Battle of Cherbourg, a fight between Union and Confederate forces that occurred off the coast of France on June 19, 1864, during the Civil War. The two ships exchanged fire for over an hour, watched by more than 15,000 bystanders from the nearby shore. The conflict resulted in the death of 41 sailors and the sinking of the CSS Alabama, which was no match for the Kearsage’s iron-chain cladding and slower, but more accurate artillery. Relying on newspaper accounts, the French painter Édouard Manet documented the battle in a work that same year.  Four years later, the American marine painter Xanthus Russell Smith (1839 – 1929) similarly relied on both written and oral eyewitness accounts to ensure the accuracy of his painting, the first of several works on the subject.  Smith himself had served as a captain’s clerk in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. Beginning in 1868, he embarked on a long career painting the major naval engagements of the Civil War, eventually referring to himself as the “oldest living and practicing artist with Civil War experiences.”

  • Titles Sinking of the Rebel cruiser Alabama by the U.S.S. Kearsage (Alternate)
  • Artist Xanthus Russell Smith, American, 1839 - 1929
  • Medium oil on canvas
  • Dimensions 9 7/8 × 18 in. (25.1 × 45.7 cm) frame: 13 1/2 × 21 1/2 in. (34.3 × 54.6 cm)
  • Credit Line Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Gift of Regions Bank, AFI.179.2015
  • Work Type painting
  • Classification Paintings