Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Art and the Law: [UK Focused]

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

Art and the Law: Guides to the legal framework and its impact on artistic freedom of expression by Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive, Index on Censorship.

From the post:

Freedom of expression is essential to the arts. But the laws and practices that protect and nurture free expression are often poorly understood both by practitioners and by those enforcing the law.

As part of Index on Censorship’s work on art and offence, Index has published a series of law packs intended to address questions about legal limits related to free expression and the arts.

We intend them as “living” documents, to be enhanced and developed in partnership with arts groups so that artistic freedom is nurtured and nourished.

This work builds on an earlier study by Index on Censorship, Taking the Offensive, which showed how self-censorship manifests itself in arts organisations and institutions.

Descriptions of:

Child Protection: PDF | web

Counter Terrorism: PDF | web

Obscene Publications: PDF | web

Public Order: PDF | web

Race and Religion: PDF | web

along with numerous other resources appear on this page.

Realize these are UK specific and the laws on such matters vary widely. That’s not a criticism but an observation for the safety of readers. Check your local laws with qualified legal advisers.

Unlike Jonathan “I Want To Be A Twitter Censor” Weisman, my advice for when you find offensive content, is to look away.

What other people choose to create, publish, perform, listen to, view, read, etc., is their business and certainly none of yours.

Criminal acts against other people, children in particular, are already unlawful and censorship isn’t required outlaw them.

For The Artistically Challenged (that includes me)

Thursday, May 12th, 2016


If you are looking for animated gifs for a blog post, presentation, etc., give GIPHY a try.

Now that I have found it, I’m likely to spend too much time looking for the perfect animated GIF.


Clojure Code Sample Appears to VBA team

Thursday, April 14th, 2016


The caption as reported at: Classic Programmer Paintings reads:

“Consultant shows Clojure code sample to VBA team”, Rembrandt, Oil on canvas, 1635

Whether shown by a consultant or being written on the wall by a disembodied hand, I suspect the impact would be the same. 😉

There is a Bosch triplet at Classic Programmer Paintings.

I was about to lament the lack of high-resolution Bosch images but then discovered Extraordinary Interactive Hi-Res Exhibit of Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ by Christopher Jobson.

As Jobson comments:

This is the internet we were promised.


Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities by Nick Montfort.

From the webpage:

This book introduces programming to readers with a background in the arts and humanities; there are no prerequisites, and no knowledge of computation is assumed. In it, Nick Montfort reveals programming to be not merely a technical exercise within given constraints but a tool for sketching, brainstorming, and inquiring about important topics. He emphasizes programming’s exploratory potential—its facility to create new kinds of artworks and to probe data for new ideas.

The book is designed to be read alongside the computer, allowing readers to program while making their way through the chapters. It offers practical exercises in writing and modifying code, beginning on a small scale and increasing in substance. In some cases, a specification is given for a program, but the core activities are a series of “free projects,” intentionally underspecified exercises that leave room for readers to determine their own direction and write different sorts of programs. Throughout the book, Montfort also considers how computation and programming are culturally situated—how programming relates to the methods and questions of the arts and humanities. The book uses Python and Processing, both of which are free software, as the primary programming languages.

Full Disclosure: I haven’t seen a copy of Exploratory Programming.

I am reluctant to part with $40.00 US for either print or an electronic version where the major heads in the table of contents read as follows:

1 Modifying a Program

2 Calculating

3 Double, Double

4 Programming Fundamentals

5 Standard Starting Points

6 Text I

7 Text II

8 Image I

9 Image II

10 Text III

11 Statistics and Visualization

12 Animation

13 Sound

14 Interaction

15 Onward

The table of contents shows more than one hundred pages out of two hundred and sixty-three are spend on introduction to computer programming topics.

Text, which has a healthy section on string operations, merits a mere seventy pages. The other one hundred pages is split between visualization, sound, animation, etc.

Compare that table of contents with this one*:

Chapter One – Modular Programming: An Approach

Chapter Two – Data Entry and Text Verification

Chapter Three – Index and Concordance

Chapter Four – Text Criticism

Chapter Five – Improved Searching Techniques

Chapter Six – Morphological Analysis

Which table of contents promises to be more useful for exploration?

Personal computers are vastly more powerful today than when the second table of contents was penned.

Yet, students start off as though they are going to write their own tools from scratch. Unlikely and certainly not the best use of their time.

In depth coverage of the NLTK Toolkit historical or contemporary texts, in depth, would teach them a useful tool. A tool they could apply to other material.

To cover machine learning, consider Weka. A tool students can learn in class and then apply in new and different situations.

There are tools for image and sound analysis but the important term is tool.

Just as we don’t teach students to make their own paper, we should focus on enabling them to reap the riches that modern software tools offer.

Or to put it another way, let’s stop repeating the past and move forward.

* Oh, the second table of contents? Computer Programs for Literary Analysis, John R. Abercrombie, Philadelphia : Univ. of Philadelphia Press, ©1984. Yes, 1984.

Paul Klee’s Personal Notebooks Online (Art, Design)

Friday, March 4th, 2016

3,900 Pages of Paul Klee’s Personal Notebooks Are Now Online, Presenting His Bauhaus Teachings (1921-1931)

Two snippets and an image to get you interested:

Paul Klee led an artistic life that spanned the 19th and 20th centuries, but he kept his aesthetic sensibility tuned to the future. Because of that, much of the Swiss-German Bauhaus-associated painter’s work, which at its most distinctive defines its own category of abstraction, still exudes a vitality today.


More recently, the Zentrum Paul Klee made available online almost all 3,900 pages of Klee’s personal notebooks, which he used as the source for his Bauhaus teaching between 1921 and 1931. If you can’t read German, his extensively detailed textual theorizing on the mechanics of art (especially the use of color, with which he struggled before returning from a 1914 trip to Tunisia declaring, “Color and I are one. I am a painter”) may not immediately resonate with you. But his copious illustrations of all these observations and principles, in their vividness, clarity, and reflection of a truly active mind, can still captivate anybody — just as his paintings do.

A reminder that design is never a “solved” problem but one that changes as culture does.

I first saw this in a tweet by Alexis Lloyd.

‘Avengers’ Comic Book Covers [ + MAD, National Lampoon]

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

50 Years of ‘Avengers’ Comic Book Covers Through Color by Jon Keegan.

From the post:

When Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” opens in theaters next month, a familiar set of iconic colors will be splashed across movie screens world-wide: The gamma ray-induced green of the Hulk, Iron Man’s red and gold armor, and Captain America’s red, white and blue uniform.

How the Avengers look today differs significantly from their appearance in classic comic-book versions, thanks to advancements in technology and a shift to a more cinematic aesthetic. As Marvel’s characters started to appear in big-budget superhero films such as “X-Men” in 2000, the darker, muted colors of the movies began to creep into the look of the comics. Explore this shift in color palettes and browse more than 50 years of “Avengers” cover artwork below. Read more about this shift in color.

The fifty years of palettes are a real treat and should be used alongside your collection of the Avenger comics for the same time period. 😉

From what I could find quickly, you will have to purchase the forty year collection separately from more recent issues.

Of course, if you really want insight into American culture, you would order Absolutely MAD Magazine – 50+ Years.

MAD issues from 1952 to 2005 (17,500 pages in full color). Annotating those issues to include social context would be a massive but highly amusing project. And you would have to find a source for the following issues.

A more accessible collection that is easily as amusing as MAD would be the National Lampoon collection. Unfortunately, only 1970 – 1975 are online. 🙁

One of my personal favorites:


Visualization of covers is a “different” way to view all of these collections and with no promises, could be interesting comparisons to contemporary events when they were published.

Mapping the commentaries you will find in MAD and National Lampoon to current events when they were published, say to articles in New York Time historical archive, would be a great history project for students and an education in social satire as well.

If anyone objects to the lack of a “serious” nature of such a project, be sure to remind them that reading the leading political science journal of the 1960’s, the American Political Science Review would have left the casual reader with few clues that the United States was engaged in a war that would destroy the lives of millions in Vietnam.

In my experience, “serious” usually equates with “supports the current system of privilege and prejudice.”

You can be “serious” or you can choose to shape a new system of privilege and prejudice.

Your call.

Between the Words [Alternate Visualizations of Texts]

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

Between the Words – Exploring the punctuation in literary classics by Nicholas Rougeux.

From the webpage:

Between the Words is an exploration of visual rhythm of punctuation in well-known literary works. All letters, numbers, spaces, and line breaks were removed from entire texts of classic stories like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Moby Dick, and Pride and Prejudice—leaving only the punctuation in one continuous line of symbols in the order they appear in texts. The remaining punctuation was arranged in a spiral starting at the top center with markings for each chapter and classic illustrations at the center.

The posters are 24″ X 36.”

Some small images to illustrate the concept:




I’m not an art critic but I can say that unusual or unexpected visualizations of data can lead to new insights. Or should I say different insights than you may have previously held.

Seeing this visualization reminded me of a presentation too any years ago at Cambridge that argued the cantillation (think crudely “accents”) marks in the Hebrew Bible were a reliable guide to clause boundaries and reading.

FYI, the versification and divisions in the oldest known witnesses to the Hebrew Bible were added centuries after the text stabilized. There are generally accepted positions on the text but at best, they are just that, generally accepted positions.

Any number of alternative presentations of texts suggest themselves.

I haven’t performed the experiment but for numeric data, reordering the data so as to force re-casting of formulas, could be a way to explore presumptions that are glossed over the the “usual form.”

Not unlike copying a text by hand as opposed to typing or photocopying the text. Each step of performing the task with less deliberation increases the odds you will miss some decision that you are making unconsciously.

If you like these posters ore know an English major/professor who may, pass this site along to them. (I have no interest, financial or otherwise in this site but I like to encourage creative thinking.)

I first saw this in a tweet by Christopher Phipps.

Creative computing with Clojure

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Creative computing with Clojure by Carin Meier.

From the post:

Clojure is gaining traction and popularity as a programming language. Both enterprises and startups are adopting this functional language because of the simplicity, elegance, and power that it brings to their business. The language originated on the JVM, but has since spread to run on the CLR and Node.js, including web browsers and mobile devices. With this spread of practical innovation, there has been another delightful development: a groundswell of people making art with Clojure.

Carin covers music, visual arts, dance, and animation, with pointers to videos and projects.

If you are looking for a challenging but enjoyable escape from the daily news, this is a good place to start!

Web Gallery of Art

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Web Gallery of Art

From the homepage:

The Web Gallery of Art is a virtual museum and searchable database of European fine arts from 11th to 19th centuries. It was started in 1996 as a topical site of the Renaissance art, originated in the Italian city-states of the 14th century and spread to other countries in the 15th and 16th centuries. Intending to present Renaissance art as comprehensively as possible, the scope of the collection was later extended to show its Medieval roots as well as its evolution to Baroque and Rococo via Mannerism. Encouraged by the feedback from the visitors, recently 19th-century art was also included. However, we do not intend to present 20th-century and contemporary art.

The collection has some of the characteristics of a virtual museum. The experience of the visitors is enhanced by guided tours helping to understand the artistic and historical relationship between different works and artists, by period music of choice in the background and a free postcard service. At the same time the collection serves the visitors’ need for a site where various information on art, artists and history can be found together with corresponding pictorial illustrations. Although not a conventional one, the collection is a searchable database supplemented by a glossary containing articles on art terms, relevant historical events, personages, cities, museums and churches.

The Web Gallery of Art is intended to be a free resource of art history primarily for students and teachers. It is a private initiative not related to any museums or art institutions, and not supported financially by any state or corporate sponsors. However, we do our utmost, using authentic literature and advice from professionals, to ensure the quality and authenticity of the content.

We are convinced that such a collection of digital reproductions, containing a balanced mixture of interlinked visual and textual information, can serve multiple purposes. On one hand it can simply be a source of artistic enjoyment; a convenient alternative to visiting a distant museum, or an incentive to do just that. On the other hand, it can serve as a tool for public education both in schools and at home.

The Gallery doesn’t own the works in question and so resolves the copyright issue thus:

The Web Gallery of Art is copyrighted as a database. Images and documents downloaded from this database can only be used for educational and personal purposes. Distribution of the images in any form is prohibited without the authorization of their legal owner.

The Gallery suggests contacting the Scala Group (or Art Resource, Scala’s U.S. representative) if you need rights beyond educational and personal purposes.

To see how images are presented, view 10 random images from the database. (Warning: The 10 random images link will work only once. If you try it again, images briefly display and then an invalid CGI environment message pops up. Suspect if you clear the browser cache it should work a second time.)

BTW, you can listen to classical music in the background while you browse/search. That is a very nice touch.

The site offers other features and options so take time to explore.

Having seen some of Michelangelo‘s works in person, I can attest no computer screen can duplicate that experience. However, if given the choice between viewing a pale imitation on a computer screen and not seeing his work at all, the computer version is a no brainer.

Rijksmuseum Online Collection Doubles!

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Rijksmuseum Digitizes & Makes Free Online 210,000 Works of Art, Masterpieces Included! by Colin Marshall.

From the post:

We all found it impressive when Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum put up 125,000 Dutch works of art online. “Users can explore the entire collection, which is handily sorted by artist, subject, style and even by events in Dutch history,” explained Kate Rix in our first post announcing it. ” “Not only can users create their own online galleries from selected works in the museum’s collection, they can download Rijksmuseum artwork for free to decorate new products.”

I first posted about the Rijksmuseum in 2011, High-Quality Images from the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, when the collection was “only” 103,000 items.

Significant not only for the quantity of high quality materials but also because you are free to remix the images found here to create your own! Unusual to say the least in these IP maddened times.

Remember there is an API to access this collection, see: API keys are free for the asking.

You have to register with the museum (free) and after creating your login, etc. choose “Advanced setting” while on your profile page. Describe your intended use and request a key.

BTW, the one improvement I would make to the museum pages would be to make registering in order to obtain an API key a bit more obvious. Say on the “About” page? I didn’t find an obvious page to register. Fortunately the GitHub site mentions it, so start at:, create a new account and then you will see “Advanced settings” at the bottom of the full registration page.


Download 422 Free Art Books from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Download 422 Free Art Books from The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Colin Marshall.

From the post:


You could pay $118 on Amazon for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s catalog The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry. Or you could pay $0 to download it at MetPublications, the site offering “five decades of Met Museum publications on art history available to read, download, and/or search for free.” If that strikes you as an obvious choice, prepare to spend some serious time browsing MetPublications’ collection of free art books and catalogs.

Judging from the speed of my download today, this is a really popular announcement!

Stash this with your other links for art, artwork, etc. as resources for a topic map.

Seeing Things Art Historians Don’t

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

When A Machine Learning Algorithm Studied Fine Art Paintings, It Saw Things Art Historians Had Never Noticed: Artificial intelligence reveals previously unrecognised influences between great artists

From the post:

The task of classifying pieces of fine art is hugely complex. When examining a painting, an art expert can usually determine its style, its genre, the artist and the period to which it belongs. Art historians often go further by looking for the influences and connections between artists, a task that is even trickier.

So the possibility that a computer might be able to classify paintings and find connections between them at first glance seems laughable. And yet, that is exactly what Babak Saleh and pals have done at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

These guys have used some of the latest image processing and classifying techniques to automate the process of discovering how great artists have influenced each other. They have even been able to uncover influences between artists that art historians have never recognised until now.

At first I thought the claim was that computer saw something art historians did not. That’s not hard. The question is whether you can convince anyone else to see what you saw. 😉

I stumbled a bit on figure 1 both in the post and in the paper. The caption for figure 1 in the article says:

Figure 1: An example of an often cited comparison in the context of influence. Left: Diego Vel´azquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1650), and, Right: Francis Bacon’s Study After Vel´azquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953). Similar composition, pose, and subject matter but a different view of the work.

Well, not exactly. Bacon never saw the original Portrait of Pope Innocent X but produced over forty-five variants of it. It wasn’t a question of “influence” but of subsequent interpretations of the portrait. Not really the same thing as influence. See: Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X

I feel certain this will be a useful technique for exploration but naming objects in a painting would result in a large number of painting of popes sitting in chairs. Some of which may or may not have been “influences” in subsequent artists.

Or to put it another way, concluding influence, based on when artists lived, is a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Good technique to find possible places to look but not a definitive answer.

The original post was based on: Toward Automated Discovery of Artistic Influence


Considering the huge amount of art pieces that exist, there is valuable information to be discovered. Examining a painting, an expert can determine its style, genre, and the time period that the painting belongs. One important task for art historians is to find influences and connections between artists. Is influence a task that a computer can measure? The contribution of this paper is in exploring the problem of computer-automated suggestion of influences between artists, a problem that was not addressed before in a general setting. We first present a comparative study of different classification methodologies for the task of fine-art style classification. A two-level comparative study is performed for this classification problem. The first level reviews the performance of discriminative vs. generative models, while the second level touches the features aspect of the paintings and compares semantic-level features vs. low-level and intermediate-level features present in the painting. Then, we investigate the question “Who influenced this artist?” by looking at his masterpieces and comparing them to others. We pose this interesting question as a knowledge discovery problem. For this purpose, we investigated several painting-similarity and artist-similarity measures. As a result, we provide a visualization of artists (Map of Artists) based on the similarity between their works

I first saw this in a tweet by yarapavan.

On Data and Performance

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

On Data and Performance by Jer Thorp.

From the post:

Data live utilitarian lives. From the moment they are conceived, as measurements of some thing or system or person, they are conscripted to the cause of being useful. They are fed into algorithms, clustered and merged, mapped and reduced. They are graphed and charted, plotted and visualized. A rare datum might find itself turned into sound, or, more seldom, manifested as a physical object. Always, though, the measure of the life of data is in its utility. Data that are collected but not used are condemned to a quiet life in a database. They dwell in obscure tables, are quickly discarded, or worse (cue violin) – labelled as ‘exhaust’.

Perhaps this isn’t the only role for a datum? To be operated on? To be useful?

Over the last couple of years, with my collaborators Ben Rubin & Mark Hansen, we’ve been investigating the possibility of using data as a medium for performance. Here, data becomes the script, or the score, and in turn technologies that we typically think of as tools become instruments, and in some cases performers.

The most recent manifestation of these explorations is a performance called A Thousand Exhausted Things, which we recently staged at The Museum of Modern Art, with the experimental theater group Elevator Repair Service. In this performance, the script is MoMA’s collections database, an eighty year-old, 120k object strong archive. The instruments are a variety of custom-written natural language processing algorithms, which are used to turn the text of the database (largely the titles of artworks) into a performable form.

The video would have been far more effective had it included the visualization at all time with the script and actors.

The use of algorithms to create a performance from the titles of works reminds me of Stanley Fish’s How to Recognize a Poem When You See One. From my perspective, the semantics you “see” in data are the semantics you expect to see. What else would they be?

What I find very powerful about topic maps is that different semantics can reside side by side for the same data.

I first saw this in tweet by blprnt.

Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus Now Available

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Art & Architecture Thesaurus Now Available as Linked Open Data by James Cuno.

From the post:

We’re delighted to announce that today, the Getty has released the Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT)® as Linked Open Data. The data set is available for download at under an Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC BY 1.0).

The Art & Architecture Thesaurus is a reference of over 250,000 terms on art and architectural history, styles, and techniques. It’s one of the Getty Research Institute’s four Getty Vocabularies, a collection of databases that serves as the premier resource for cultural heritage terms, artists’ names, and geographical information, reflecting over 30 years of collaborative scholarship. The other three Getty Vocabularies will be released as Linked Open Data over the coming 18 months.

In recent months the Getty has launched the Open Content Program, which makes thousands of images of works of art available for download, and the Virtual Library, offering free online access to hundreds of Getty Publications backlist titles. Today’s release, another collaborative project between our scholars and technologists, is the next step in our goal to make our art and research resources as accessible as possible.

What’s Next

Over the next 18 months, the Research Institute’s other three Getty Vocabularies—The Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN)®, The Union List of Artist Names®, and The Cultural Objects Name Authority (CONA)®—will all become available as Linked Open Data. To follow the progress of the Linked Open Data project at the Research Institute, see their page here.

A couple of points of particular interest:

Getty documentation says this is the first industrial application of ISO 25964 Information and documentation – Thesauri and interoperability with other vocabularies..

You will probably want to read AAT Semantic Representation rather carefully.

A great source of data and interesting reading on the infrastructure as well.

I first saw this in a tweet by Semantic Web Company.