AsianScientist (January 5, 2015) – Taking a statistical approach, the researchers used digital image processing to quantify the difference in European paintings from the 11th to early 19th centuries. This research was published in Scientific reports.
Led by Professor Jeong Hawoong from the Department of Physics at the Korea Institute of Advanced Science and Technology (KAIST) and Assistant Professor Son Seung-Woo from the Department of Applied Physics at Hanyang University, the research team analyzed paintings based on three elements: the use of color, the variety of colors painted, and the brightness of the images.
For the large-scale quantitative analysis, the research team used digital images of the paintings obtained from the Web Gallery of Art, a virtual museum and searchable database of European fine art that includes more than 29 000 pieces, ranging from the 1000s to 1850s. Web Gallery categorizes paintings into ten historical periods of art, including Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Romantic, and Realist.
For each period, the researchers studied the frequency of certain colors that appear in the paintings and examined the variety of colors painted, paying particular attention to the paintings created by two iconoclastic artists from different periods: Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Jackson Pollock. In their work, the researchers found that specific pigments were preferred in each period, a result of translating historical facts into fine art.
For example, some rare colors were used in medieval times for political and religious reasons and artists of that time used a technique to layer one color on another dry color to express blended colors resulting in strokes thick texture brush because they were planning to mix the colors. impure. Additionally, oil colors and color mixing techniques were not fully developed until the Renaissance period.
According to the research team, fewer colors were used before the 20th century and the introduction of new expressionist tools – such as the use of pastels and fingers directly on the canvas – and painting techniques such as “clair- obscur” and “sfumato”, made much more colorful and natural expressions possible after the Renaissance period. The team said that the color arrangement of Jackson Pollock’s drip paints differed significantly from other paintings, showing randomness, especially in the spatial arrangement of colors.
The researchers also looked at one of the artistic effects applied to paintings: contrast, an important element for expressing form and space in two-dimensional fine art. Among the different types of contrasts, they said, the contrast of brightness is the most important in the history of art due to the cultural background of Europe which generally embraces the contrast of light and dark. as a metaphorical expression.
By taking color information from pixels and their spatial arrangement, the researchers investigated the prevalence of brightness contrast in European paintings across ten artistic periods by developing a correlation function to measure the contrast. These mathematical measurements quantitatively describe the birth of new painting techniques including chiaroscuro and sfumato and their increasing use. For example, in medieval times, the outline of objects or images in paintings was vague but became much clearer later in the romantic period.
Jeong said, “The complexity of the material world has been a long-standing topic of interest in the natural sciences, but research into the structural complexity of art and humanities has only started since the development of the Internet, with the availability of big data in these fields. Our research is a meaningful attempt to understand the underlying complexity of art and humanities based on a scientific approach, expressed quantitatively.
The article can be found at: Kim et al. (2014) Large Scale Quantitative Analysis of the Arts of Painting.
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