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(all images via

A major source of raw materials for board room presentations and net art projects is about to go dry: Microsoft announced on Monday that it is discontinuing Clip Art and replacing the charmingly bland, often inscrutable stock image library that’s long been a fixture of its Office word-processing package with a Bing image search function. On the occasion of its demise, here is a very brief history of Microsoft’s Clip Art illustrated, naturally, with Microsoft Clip Art.

Microsoft first introduced Clip Art with the release of Word 6.0 in 1993.

The inventory of Clip Art was very limited at first, with just 82 illustrations from which to choose.

In later versions of Word and Office, the database of Clip Art grew to include over 100,000 illustrations, offering users seemingly limitless options.

The most recent versions of Office have shifted the collection of Clip Art to an online database searchable through

But Microsoft has seen usage of Clip Art plummet as search engines and specialized websites have become more popular resources for stock images and illustrations.

As a result of this dwindling usage, Microsoft opted to cease producing Clip Art.

Instead, Microsoft Office users will now be able to look for images licensed through Creative Commons using Bing’s image search function.

h/t CNN Money

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

One reply on “In Honor of the Death of Clip Art, a Brief Illustrated History of Clip Art”

  1. This “history” doesn’t mention that clip art was a print phenomenon
    for a hundred years. Books of images and patterns and borders to clip
    out were published widely and provided reference for collagists, graphic
    designers and ad agencies up until the 1990s.
    illustrations were licensed or sold to users as “stock art” in the same
    way that photographers sold image rights for stock photography, and this
    provided additional streams of income to artists. In the 1990s this set
    off a controversy about whether sales of stock illustration were
    diluting the market for purposefully created original art on commission,
    and was demeaning the art of illustration. Some would say that the
    death of stock art was a good thing, but of course it also meant the end
    of a market.

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