|Frederic Bazille’s Studio 9 Rue de la Condamine (1870) and Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barber Shop (1950)|
When A Machine Learning Algorithm Studied Fine Art Paintings, It Saw Things Art Historians Had Never Noticed
The Physics arXiv Blog via Medium, Aug 2014
Source document: Toward Automated Discovery of Artistic Influence
There's some stirring in the dusty world of art history, with the rise of encultured robots threatening human livelihoods. A promising young algorithm is set upon the world, fed with centuries of art imagery, design principles, and historical documentation. Our little algorithm then grows up and learns how to identify patterns in the art world better than its teacher.
In the two compared images above, this little art-historian algo recognized similar compositional patterns that had never been seen before - a hidden Norman Rockwell, see above.
First of all, as an art history major in college, I look at all the compared/related images discovered by the AI, and I am not so impressed. Maybe the general concept is what fails to impress me. When you follow the art world long enough you get to know something about how influence works, and about the power that one thing can have on an artist's work. And I say that there is no such thing as one thing.
The nature of the artist is to take the world at large, a fuck-tonnery of pre-filtered miasma, and to make sense, or at least to fight with it in a way that leaves a record of the battle, and for the benefit of humankind. To say that one painting influenced another because they have similar stylistic elements or design principles is kind of silly. I do understand that subconscious influence has its way with the creative process. But that refers to life as well as art. The new style checker cab, or Triangle shirtwaists, or bubble tea or middle-hipster Americana folk music or The Beatles or African masks or even syphilis could influence an artists' work.
|Charge of the Lancers - Umberto Boccioni - 1915|
I heard Picasso's mistress Françoise Gilot, in her bio of Pable Picasso, say some of his lobster paintings were a response to her hard-shelled personality which came to a head prior to their separation. Algorithms can see that? Nah man.
I know someone can come on here and argue with me, successfully, that artists do influence each other in simple visual ways, and at times, the visual connections can supplement a lack of historical data surrounding their work. But still, there is a need for socio-biographical data in all this, and I wonder if our little algo could be even better trained.
Now, all this having been said, I just finished watching this: Davos talk about the future of artificial intelligence, with IBM CEO Ginni Rommetti. She says that the goal of IBM's artificial intelligence (Watson, by the way, in case you forgot) is to extend human faculties, not replace them. According to her premonitions, the art historian is not doomed, rather it will be enriched and extended by our algorithmic overlords.