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Technology Mimics the Brushstrokes of Masters

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A detail of a copy of van Goghs painting The Harvest, of a landscape near Arles, France, made with a 3-D printer.

Researchers are using 3D printing technologies to create high-quality reproductions of art masterpieces.

Credit: Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam

Emerging three-dimensional (3D) printing technologies are enabling high-quality reproductions of art masterpieces, copying color, brushstrokes, and paint thickness in an exact manner, which the art world is exploring for conservation, research, and commercial potential.

For example, the Van Gogh Museum this year collaborated with Fujifilm to create the first fully color-corrected 3D copies of several renowned works by Vincent van Gogh.

In addition, researchers from Delft University of Technology, in cooperation with Canon subsidiary Oce, released 3D copies of Rembrandt's "Jewish Bride" and other works.

The Fujifilm researchers worked with the Van Gogh Museum for seven years to develop a technique known as Reliefography, which merges a 3D painting scan with a high-resolution print.

The Delft University group created an imaging device to record color and topographical data from painting surfaces.

In addition, the researchers used X-ray fluorescence to perform a chemical analysis of pigment components, and hyperspectral imaging to gather color data from across the electromagnetic spectrum. This data created a set of volumetric data similar to a 3D pixel, and Oce generated a high-resolution 3D print based on the color information.

Beyond reproductions, 3D scanning could help art experts examine paint layers to learn about the structure of a work or to document a painting's condition before and after loaning a piece to another institution.

From The New York Times
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