Crossovers between art and the sciences are making a huge impact on the art landscape.
In September 2012, computer scientists Lior Shamir and Jane Tarakhovsky of Detroit’s Lawrence Technological University published the results of an experiment, a computer programme that can classify paintings according to their art historical period or movement.
The programme uses 4,027 image content descriptors to quantify the visual features of each painting, including things like texture, colour and shape. With these metrics, the computer algorithm was able to correctly group approximately 1,000 artworks from 34 artists based on their visual styles, with no mistakes.
According to the study, the programme immediately divided the 34 artists into two groups, classical and modern painters. From there, the algorithm was also able to identify sub-groups whose artists belonged to the same art movements, linking Da Vinci with Michaelangelo, Rubens with Vermeer and Gauguin with Cézanne.
Though the programme represents a major milestone for computerised visual analysis, it will probably end up being more useful to an untrained viewer of art than to art historians.
While the average non-expert can normally make the broad differentiation between modern art and classical realism, they have difficulty telling the difference between closely related schools of art such as Early and High Renaissance or Mannerism and Romanticism. The experiment showed that machines can outperform untrained humans in the analysis of fine art.
Will computers take the place of art historians in the not-too-distant future? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
- Taipei Art Awards 2011 win for mechanical installation artist Han-chih Liu – January 2012 – as scientists investigate art, artists like Taiwan’s Han-chi Liu investigate science and how it can be mobilised by artistic communities
- Brain scans reveal the power of art – The Telegraph – July 2011 – neuroscience also breaking ground in the realm of aesthetics
- Fighting fakes in Asia: Pioneering technology from Cranfield University and Bonhams may help – June 2011 – collaborative forensic science research project represents significant advances in authentication of art objects
- Top Australian media artists introduced at Art Taipei – public lecture by Antoanetta Ivanova – September 2010 – top Australian new media artists work with science-art crossover
- New technologies for spotting art fakes gain acceptance – Forbes – December 2008 – a look at useful art software tools that are affordable and, in some cases, free
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