A group of organizations, including Microsoft and the Rembrandthuis museum, have collaborated to produce a new painting by Rembrandt. Or rather, "by" Rembrandt. The team wrote software that analyzed the Dutch master's entire catalog of paintings and used the data to create a 3D-printed Rembrandt-esque painting.
We now had a digital file true to Rembrandt's style in content, shapes, and lighting. But paintings aren't just 2D -- they have a remarkable three-dimensionality that comes from brushstrokes and layers of paint. To recreate this texture, we had to study 3D scans of Rembrandt's paintings and analyze the intricate layers on top of the canvas.
I'd say they did pretty well:
I wonder though, to what extent is this an averaged Rembrandt? According to the program, is there one canonical Rembrandt-esque eye and that's it? Or can the program paint dozens of variations? After all, because he was (presumably) working with actual people, Rembrandt himself had hundreds or thousands of ways to paint, it wasn't just the same sort of mouth over and over.
See also Loving Vincent and Alice in a Neural Networks Wonderland. (thx, lucas)
Update: Peter Schjeldahl, art critic for the New Yorker, weighs in on The Next Rembrandt.
In truth, the portrait wobbles at a second glance and crashes at a third. The sitter has a sparkle of personality but utterly lacks the personhood -- the being-ness -- that never eluded Rembrandt. He is an actor, acting.
He also calls it "fan fiction".
NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art has made a whopping 400,000 high-resolution digital images of its collection available for free download. You can browse the collection here.
In making the announcement, Mr. Campbell said: "Through this new, open-access policy, we join a growing number of museums that provide free access to images of art in the public domain. I am delighted that digital technology can open the doors to this trove of images from our encyclopedic collection."
The Metropolitan Museum's initiative-called Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC)-provides access to images of art in its collection that the Museum believes to be in the public domain and free of other known restrictions; these images are now available for scholarly use in any media.
For instance, here's a 12-megapixel image of Rembrandt's 1660 self-portrait...you can see quite a bit of detail:
Update: Wendy Macnaughton on why the high-resolution images released by the Met are such a big deal for art students and art history fans.
For someone who went to art school being able to do this is a revelation. I used to go to the museum with my sketchpad and copy the old masters. I'd get as close as I could to understand the brush strokes, colors, lines. The guards knew who to watch out for and would bark suddenly when we stuck our faces over the imaginary line.
As class assignments we were required to copy hundreds -- literally hundreds -- of the masters drawings and paintings. for those we mostly worked from images in books -- a picture the size of a wallet photo.
Which is one of the many reasons this new met resource is fucking phenomenal.
You can get so, so close -- far closer than one could in real life.
On Saturday night, an 11-by-6-inch Rembrandt pen-and-ink drawing called "The Judgement", worth $250K, was stolen from the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey. Interestingly, Rembrandt pieces are the second most stolen pieces of art.
Art experts reached Sunday said works by Rembrandt are among the most popular targets for art thieves, second only to those by Picasso, because of the artist's name recognition and their value. Anthony Amore, chief investigator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and co-author of the book "Stealing Rembrandts," said there have been 81 documented thefts of the artist's work in the last 100 years.
It's like I always say: When I edit Kottke, art gets stolen.
That was fast. The drawing has been recovered. Thanks, Patrick.
This portrait of Homer Simpson painted in the style of Rembrandt is strangely mesmerizing. Can't look away from those giant eyes.