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An artwork entitled ‘The Next Rembrandt’  has recently been unveiled in Amsterdam. The painting depicts a 17th-century thirty-something man in a black hat and white collar that creator Bas Korsten hopes looks ‘unmistakably like a Rembrandt’.

The painting is in fact created by data analysts and computers, and is the result of an 18 month project that asks whether new technology and data can bring back to life a great and innovative painter.

Data scientists, developers, engineers and art historians have all been involved in the project which produced a final 3D printed painting consisting of more than 148 million pixels based on 168,263 Rembrandt painting fragments. The project included designing a software system that could understand Rembrandt based on his use of geometry, composition and painting materials, then use a facial recognition algorithm to identify and classify the most typical geometric patterns used to paint human features.

Korsten stressed that the aim of the project was not to replicate Rembrandt’s work, or to create a new Rembrandt, but to create ‘something new from his work. Only Rembrandt could create a Rembrandt.’

Maths and Fine Art applicants should consider the role that patterns and maths play in the creation of art and in ideas of beauty. Computer Scientists should look more into the technology used and consider how algorithms can be used to produce something that seems so centred on individual creativity. History of Art students should research Rembrandt and his techniques, and how this might be transferred into computer based paintings, as well as the implications of this.

Students interested in Anthropology might consider questions about technology and artwork and how they interlink in contemporary society. Korsten himself asks ‘If you look at how music has embraced the computer, why doesn’t that happen in visual arts?’

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