Microsoft creates masterful new Rembrandt painting

Can a machine ever match the skills of a human artist? It's a question that has intrigued people for years, and with the creation of The Next Rembrandt it seems that technology and data visualization are closing the gap between computers and painters.

Unveiled in Amsterdam last week, The Next Rembrandt is a 3D-printed painting in the style of Rembrandt, created by software that has closely studied the 346 paintings of the Dutch master.

The Next Rembrandt

The Next Rembrandt took 18 months to complete

Made in collaboration with advertising agency J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam, presenting partner ING Bank and supporting partner Microsoft, The Next Rembrandt took 18 months to complete and resulted in 150 gigabytes of digitally rendered graphics.

"When we embarked on this journey, we didn't know the outcome," explains Bas Korsten, the executive creative director at J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam.

The Next Rembrandt

Facial recognition software analysed hundreds of Rembrandt's portraits

"Can you teach a computer how to paint like Rembrandt? Can you distil Rembrandt's artistic DNA to create new art? All I can say about the outcome is that I see a person. Not a computer image. For me it shows that this marriage between data and art is still in the honeymoon stage," he adds.

With the help of advisors from Delft University of Technology, The Mauritshuis and Museum Het Rembrandthuis, the spirit of Rembrandt has been captured again some four centuries after the artist created his last painting.

The Next Rembrandt

A deep learning algorithm interpreted the data from Rembrandt's paintings

Consisting of over 148 million pixels, and based on 168, 263 painting fragments from Rembrandt's work, the creators hope that The Next Rembrandt will fuel the conversation about where technological innovation can take art.

"The Next Rembrandt is a fascinating exercise in connoisseurship," says art historian Gary Schwartz. "While no one will claim that Rembrandt can be reduced to an algorithm, this technique offers an opportunity to test your own ideas about his paintings in concrete, visual form."

The Next Rembrandt

A 3D printer was used to create a realistic painting texture

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Dom Carter

Dom Carter is a freelance writer who specialises in art and design. Formerly a staff writer for Creative Bloq, his work has also appeared on Creative Boom and in the pages of ImagineFX, Computer Arts, 3D World, and .net. He has been a D&AD New Blood judge, and has a particular interest in picture books.