Ask any artist about whether a form of artificial intelligence can create art and the answer you will get will almost undoubtedly, unequivocally be a resounding ‘no’. Art is indeed subjective but there is also a clear human aspect surrounding art – there has to be feeling behind it, emotion and meaning.
So when a team from the Netherlands in association with Microsoft and with backing from ING bank come together to 3D print a ‘brand new’ Rembrandt painting you have to stand up and consider its implications.
The team from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands pooled together a 346-strong selection of Rembrandt’s works in order to create an algorithm that could re-produce his style of painting.
The Dutch Master’s style does lead itself well to 3D printing. He is well known for the thick layers of paint used when producing works which allowed for the 3D mapping process to take. A statement from the team explained the process saying that: “We examined the entire collection of Rembrandt’s work, studying the contents of his paintings pixel by pixel… we analysed a broad range of materials like high resolution 3D scans and digital files, which were upscaled by deep learning algorithms to maximise resolution and quality.”
All in all the team took 500 hours to create the painting using techniques such as height map creation that allowed them to re-create his brush strokes.
The outcome is a painting called The Next Rembrandt which does indeed resemble the Master’s style. The team saw that Rembrandt ‘specialised’ in dimly lit portraits of 30-40 year-old men with facial hair for instance.
The team certainly deserve some form of accolade for their work in creating the painting using 3D printing and other modern technologies.
But is it art?
While the painting which has been created is beautiful and very reminiscent of the Master’s works the question of whether it constitutes a piece of art is open to debate. The team used artisty and endeavour as well as a mastery of computer programming, mathematics and 3D printing to create the work and it may well be argued that when Rembrandt himself undertook portrait commissions he was not so much interested in ‘style’ as he was in getting the job done. The fact remains however that no matter the effort of the team and the work that went in to create The Next Rembrandt it amounts to copying the work of the great painter and following a pattern of pixels a la painting by numbers rather than it being an original art work.
Let that not detract from the team’s achievements or their abilities for this has opened up 3D printing into new avenues that may one day see fully accurate reproductions of famous works in people’s homes rather than flat reproductions.
It might not be art but it is advancement and we look forward to seeing the next steps for the team.