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Are Computers Better Than People at Image Analysis?

June 5, 2012 General, Photography 0 Comments

Dr. David G. Stork

The Optical Society of Chicago recently held its spring meeting at the Harrington campus, allowing us a great opportunity to listen to a guest speaker who literally helped write one of the textbooks we use in our Physics of Light class.

Dr. David G. Stork, Research Director of Rambus Labs and one of the authors of the textbook, “When Computers Look At Art: Image Analysis In Humanistic Studies Of The Visual Arts,” touched on a variety of topics relating to computer-aided image analysis in humanistic studies of the visual arts. Dr. Stork was invited to speak at the event by our very own Digital Art & Technology instructor, Ed Wesly.

New computer methods have been used to shed light on a number of recent controversies in the study of art. Just a few examples that were discussed included:

  • Computer fractal analysis used in authentication studies of paintings
  • Computer wavelet analysis used for attribution of the contributors in Perugino's Holy Family

  • The international group of computer and image scientists who are currently studying the brushstrokes in paintings by Vincent van Gogh in an effort to detect forgeries

  • The use of sophisticated computer analysis of perspective, shading, color and form that has shed light on David Hockney's bold claim that as early as 1420, Renaissance artists employed optical devices such as concave mirrors to project images onto their canvases

The lecture included numerous examples from works by Jackson Pollock, Vincent van Gogh, Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Lorenzo Lotto, and others. Those who attended had a great opportunity to engage in some very interesting discussion around how the computer methods work, what computer analysis can reveal beyond that of even the best-trained connoisseurs, art historians and artists, and just how computer image analysis may change our very understanding of art.

About Dr. David G. Stork
Dr. Stork is a distinguished research scientist and research director at Rambus Labs and a graduate in physics of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Maryland at College Park. He studied art history at Wellesley College, was artist-in-residence through the New York State Council of the Arts, and is a Fellow of the International Association for Pattern Recognition and Fellow of SPIE, in part for his work on computer image analysis of art. He has published eight books/proceedings volumes and has one forthcoming.

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