Surreal or Cubist? The Science of Objective Art Classification

Salvador Dali, Portrait of Picasso
KYOTO — Have you ever wondered which characteristics of a painting classify it as a certain artistic genre? How do we know a Picasso piece conforms to the properties of Cubism, and what makes Dali art Surreal? Placing artwork into its proper genre is a pretty subjective task, but researchers in Japan are working to make the work of art historians a bit more scientific.

A study at Japan's ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories, led by Yukiyasu Kamitani, examined the patterns in brain activity of twelve students who were shown works of art by Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Using an MRI, scientists identified certain brain patterns generated by the students that were unique to each artist. Students were then shown another set of paintings by the same artists.

Both sets of brain patterns were fed into a computer program to determine whether the first set of data could be used as a basis in identifying the genre of paintings viewed in the second set. The results: the program was correct 83% of the time among the six students who were art majors and 62% of the time among the others. The study indicates that the human brain has "abstract codes" for different artistic styles, codes which could soon be used to revolutionize art classification into a more objective process.
Read More - Brain Scanner Can Tell a Dali from a Picasso | New Scientist
[Image: Salvador Dali, "Portrait of Picasso" (1947)]

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