Analyzing Rembrandt and Van Gogh in 3D

Master paintings can’t be fully understood in 2D, say researchers

3D printing, 3d scan, art, painting Delft, research, Holland, Dutch, Van Gogh, RembrandtMost of us have only see society’s most important paintings through 2D reproductions. Unfortunately, painting is actually a 3D art that layers color atop color to create an image. So, without being able to see the actual strokes a painter has made, much of the information stored in a painting is lost.

In an attempt to better study and distribute the 3D information that makes up a painting, researchers at TU Delft have begun 3D scanning and printing the works of two Dutch masters, Rembrandt and Van Gogh.

The study, which is comprised of scans from three paintings, isn’t meant to produce exact replicas of the works themselves. Rather the research is concerned with understanding how Rembrandt and Van Gogh actually created their pieces.

According to Tim Zaman a researcher at TU Delft, “Paintings are versatile near-planar objects with material characteristics that vary widely. The fact that paint has a material presence is often overlooked, mostly because of the fact that we encounter many of these artworks through two dimensional reproductions.”

Zaman continued, “The capture of paintings in the third dimension is not only interesting for study, restoration and conservation, but it also facilitates making three dimensional reproductions through novel 3-D printing methods.”

Because there were no off the shelf methods for creating theirs scans researchers devised a hybrid imaging technique that employed two cameras and a projector. As the cameras imaged each section of a painting a computer encoded the image information from that section including color, topography, and how the section fit into the paint as a whole.

Delft researchers will present their work at the Technart conference being held next Monday at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Researcher believe that from their work they’ll be able to create lifelike reproduction of paintings that can be used to teach painting techniques and help scholars further investigate these cultural masterpieces.

Images and Video Courtesy of TU Delft