Computers can master ancient games, drive cars, and have social-media meltdowns. But can they continue the work of a master painter who died more than 300 years ago? "That's an appealing question," professor Joris Dik tells International Business Times. Dik, along with assorted developers, art historians, and data scientists, spent 18 months trying to solve it. The Guardian reports the answer is The Next Rembrandt, a computer-generated painting unveiled Tuesday in Amsterdam. The team analyzed all 346 of Rembrandt's paintings—more than 168,000 painting fragments—to create software that understands how and what Rembrandt painted. “It is a way of keeping the great master alive," says Bas Korsten, whose ad agency was the driving force behind the project.
The Next Rembrandt is a 148-million-pixel portrait of a 17th century man wearing a hat that the team hopes could be mistaken for a lost Rembrandt. The 3D printer used to create the image even mimicked the physical texture of an actual oil painting. Dutch News reports not all Rembrandt fans who've seen the work were convinced, quoting one who said they "would expect more accent on the collar and the painting to be sharper." And Korsten admits some people may be upset by the idea that a great artist could be replaced by an algorithm. But he wants to assure art lovers they aren't trying to make Rembrandt obsolete. “We are creating something new from his work," Korsten says. "Only Rembrandt could create a Rembrandt.” (The mystery of a dismembered Rembrandt was finally solved.)