The Digital Art History Lab Lectures

All lectures are held from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Music Room of The Frick Collection. They are free and open to the public, but registration is required. To register, please contact dahlprograms@frick.org.

Upcoming Lectures

The Architecture of the Holocaust: How Art History and Digital Humanities Help us Analyze Difficult Building Sites
Paul Jaskot, Professor of Art History and Director of the Wired! Lab, Duke University
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Holocaust was a profoundly spatial experience that involved not only the movement of millions of European Jews but also their confinement and murder in sites specifically built for the genocide. Paul Jaskot's talk addresses how perpetrators thought of their building projects and, conversely, how victims experienced these oppressive spaces. Analyzing the architecture of the Holocaust helps us in understanding the larger development, implementation, and context of this crucial event. In addition to an architectural plan and a specific survivor testimony as examples, the lecture also explores how recent methods in Digital Humanities—particularly digital mapping—can be used to investigate plans and testimonies to raise new questions about the architectural and historical significance of the Holocaust.

Past Lectures

Using Computed Weave Maps to Gain Art-Historical Insight from Vermeer's Canvases
Dr. C. Richard Johnson, Jr., Cornell University
Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Thread Count Automation Project (TCAP) launched by Professor Johnson in 2007 discovered striped patterns in color-coded images of local thread densities obtained from digital image processing of x-radiographs of Old Master paintings on canvas. These striped patterns provide a "fingerprint" for pieces of canvas cut from the same roll. This spurred a four-year effort assisted by Walter Liedtke, one of the world's leading scholars of Dutch and Flemish paintings, to gather x-radiographs of all thirty-four paintings on canvas by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675). Six matching pairs of roll-mates have been identified thus far that provide evidence regarding authentication, dating, and—potentially—artistic intent. In addition to weave density maps, images were created of thread angle from their nominal horizontal and vertical directions. These angle maps provide forensic information regarding warp/weft thread designation and cusping, which offers insight into Vermeer's studio practice and the possible re-sizing of his paintings since their creation. The insights generated by computed weave maps arising from the application of digital image processing are pioneering contributions from engineering to the emerging field of computational art history.

After the presentation The Frick Collection's Associate Research Curator Margaret Iacono will hold a conversation with Dr. Johnson about his discoveries regarding some of Vermeer's masterpieces, including The Collection's iconic Mistress and Maid.

A video of this event is available here.

Painting Province: A Statistical Analysis of Rural Imagery in Nineteenth-Century French Painting
Diana Greenwald, Research Assistant, Institute of New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School and D.Phil Candidate in Economic and Social History at Wadham College, University of Oxford
Thursday, October 27, 2016

Diana will be the Center for the History of Collecting's Junior Fellow for Spring 2017.

Throughout the nineteenth century, urbanization and industrialization were modernizing France’s socio-economic landscape; meanwhile, both the subject matter and style of French art were rapidly changing. Featured among these artistic changes was the growing prominence of landscape and rural genre painting. Scholars have argued that the socio-economic changes caused the artistic ones—that as French populations became more urban, they demanded more images of nature. Using statistical methods and a previously untapped dataset (an unpublished subject index to the roughly 134,000 paintings displayed at the Paris Salon between 1791 and 1881) this talk examined whether or not the production of natural imagery in art can be systematically linked to urbanization and industrialization.

The Art of Seeing in the Digital Age: Aesthetics at the Intersection of Art and Science
Emily L. Spratt, PhD Candidate in Art and Archaeology, Princeton University
Tuesday, May 10, 2016

This presentation explored the use of vision technology for the analysis of art and its philosophical implications for both aesthetic theory and artificial intelligence. Now that computers have the capacity to see at an intelligent level, we as a society are faced with the ethical responsibility of directing the machine’s gaze and telling it how to interpret its visual input. Utilizing old and new methodologies in the history of art, philosophy, and neuroscience that challenge the basis of our understanding of human visual perception itself, Spratt demonstrated that the art of seeing in the digital age has everything to do with the historical underpinnings of the fundamental ties between the arts and sciences.

Specialization and Diversity in Dutch and Flemish Printmaking: A Computational Approach
Matthew Lincoln, PhD, University of Maryland, College Park
Thursday, April 7, 2016

Many 17th-century Dutch and Flemish painters found it commercially advantageous to specialize in particular genres, such as still lifes, landscapes, or portraiture. But did the same hold true for etchers and engravers who produced prints? In this talk, Matthew Lincoln uses quantitative methods from ecology to assess genre diversity in large databases of prints and paintings, such as the Frick Art Reference Library's Montias Database of 17th-Century Dutch Art Inventories. This data-driven approach offers a longue durée framework for studying individual printmakers and their collaborative networks.

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