The project The Next Rembrandt fascinated me already some time ago and has not let go since then. 347 years after the death of Rembrandt Van Rijn, a new work was created that bears his unmistakable signature – painted by a computer. This is not only about art in general and masterful painting in particular, but also about a subject that will be of increasing interest to us in the coming years: Artificial intelligence.
Before we start into the details, please have a look at this entertaining video. It summarizes the approach and scope of the project in about 4 minutes. So? What do you think? Kind of ambivalent – isn’t it? In any case, the video leaves me somewhat undecided. On the one hand, the creation of a (Rembrandt) portrait using an algorithm is revolutionary for me. Because we become contemporary witnesses of the birth of the art industry 4.0: Machines create creative products on a gallery/museum level.
On the other hand, this revolutionary aspect is also my cause for concern: Is this development desirable? Where is the journey going? Do we have to realistically prepare ourselves for the fact that numerous jobs will also be lost in the art sector – just like in all other areas of society? It probably is, and if the focus on commercial values continues to progress (a development I personally don’t welcome), then in a few years’ time creative activities will be automated and replaced by art robots as standard. “That’s absolutely reasonable economically,” it’ll say.
Some artists might just have their work created and their team consists exclusively of machines. A rather bizarre picture. But let’s let it fade again first. Because the fact that new technologies bring about changes, that progress cannot be stopped and that the golden road is somewhere in the middle is nothing new. And all this provided that the positive aspects of the project clearly outweigh the artificial Rembrandt portrait from my point of view.
I’ve always been excited about new technologies and The Next Rembrandt is a technological masterpiece. Here are some of the most spectacular facts:
More than 300 Rembrandt portraits were captured by 3D scanners and upscaled to higher resolution for further processing.
Rembrandt’s portraits were analysed via statistical analysis with regard to gender, age and viewing direction.
For the determination of the face proportions a special algorithm was used, which can recognize more than 60 points in an image.
The computer formed a kind of artistic average from all these data and calculated the final characteristic data for the most probable, next picture of this artist for over 500 hours:
Finally, to bring The Next Rembrandt painting to life after 18 months of work, a topographic map was created, the dynamics of which were transferred into the resulting image in 13 layers by means of 3D printers.
This project torches a firework of innovations and raises the level of what is feasible to a new level. This very elaborate implementation reminds me of the Google Art Project.
In addition, not only the technological side is impressive, but also the artistic quality of the resulting image is breathtaking. My opinion.
Surely the estimations here diverge, some experts got to know each other immediately after announcement of the project result well audibly. But let’s be honest: without a magnifying glass and intensive analysis, there is nothing wrong with the result. Therefore, there will probably be nothing to complain about from a purely optical point of view on the part of interested to experienced amateurs. And as far as I have heard, the experts are also quite divided regarding the quality of the result.
All in all, I believe that The Next Rembrandt will be positive for the perception of art and the memory of the artist. And who knows, maybe it will even bring about a Rembrandt renaissance.
Some historical facts about Rembrandt van Rijn
Rembrandt van Rijn (full name: Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn) was born on 15 July 1606 in the Dutch town of Leiden. He went down in history as the most important Dutch baroque painter, with an inimitable talent for human portraits.
Rembrandt knew exceptionally well how to reproduce human moods in his works and how to achieve this in an almost uncompromising realism.
He painted portraits very early on, but his work was not limited to them. The artist also created numerous landscapes and paintings with biblical and mythological themes. Among his most famous paintings:
The Anatomy of Dr. Tulp (1632, oil on canvas, 169.5 x 216.5 cm)
The Glare of Simson (1636, oil on canvas, 205 x 272 cm)
The Night’s Watch (1642, oil on canvas, 363 x 437 cm)
The hundred guilder leaf (1647 – 1649, etching, 27,8 x 38,8 cm)
Rembrandt died on 4 October 1669 in Amsterdam, where his monument still stands today.
I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of questions in my head, like:
Will artists be replaced by computers in the future?
What value would art still have in an age of creative machines? How would this be measured?
What will art and art creation look like in 100 years?