BAPCR Christmas Talk - Inpainting by algorithm: The conservator-restorer in the age of artificial intelligence CR Christmas talk

User menu

Friday, 26 November, 2021 - 19:00

at the Art Workers’ Guild, 6 Queens’ Square, London, WC1N 3AT and via Zoom

Doors 6.30pm / Talk 7pm, followed by drinks and mince pies

Dr Nicholas Eastaugh, who will present: Inpainting by algorithm: The conservator-restorer in the age of artificial intelligence

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam recently recreated the appearance of lost parts of Rembrandt’s Night Watch, a victim of too small a doorway in the 18th century when large sections were cut off and thrown away. But this was no ordinary reconstruction informed by long experience of treating Rembrandt’s works – instead, the missing sections were generated by a computer ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) trained on Rembrandt’s colours and brushwork.

If you want to get an opinion on the authenticity of an artwork you can now consult an AI instead of a connoisseur. By submitting an image to the AI, you can learn the percentage probability of the painting being ‘right’, along with a picture showing you where the AI thinks it is ‘wrong’.

Does all this presage a new era in which human hand is replaced by soulless robots ‘analysing’ paintings and printing over losses? Are art historians out of a job? Will you find that the next hire for your studio team is a computer programmer? The truth, as always, is more complex, and from super-resolution of images to informed reconstruction of losses, AIs are set to become powerful supporting tools alongside more traditional investigation and treatment methods.

Across the course of this talk Dr Nicholas Eastaugh will aim to demystify what is happening and show with a wide selection of visually engaging examples (and no equations!) how we stand to gain far more than lose from the coming changes.

Dr Nicholas Eastaugh originally trained as a physicist before going on to study conservation and art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, where he completed a PhD in scientific analysis and documentary research of historical pigments in 1988. Since 1989 he has been a consultant in the scientific and art technological study of paint and paintings. A frequent lecturer, he was an Honorary Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Oxford 2003-2017. In 1999 he co-founded the Pigmentum Project, an interdisciplinary research group developing comprehensive high-quality documentary and analytical data on historical pigments and other artists’ materials. This led to the publication of the Pigment Compendium in 2004, which quickly became a standard reference text in the field. Dr Eastaugh founded Art Analysis & Research in 2009. He recently left to start a new venture, Dr Nicholas Eastaugh Associates Ltd. His current interests lie at the intersection of material art and art history, and the application of new technologies to these.

Places are limited and tickets should be bought in advance (this event historically sells out). We will not be serving our usual buffet, but the paid bar will remain open. The price for tickets at the Art Workers Guild includes the talk, a glass of mulled wine or soft drink, and a mince pie.

Art Workers Guild (in person event)
BAPCR member £5
Non member £10

Via Zoom (virtual)
BAPCR member Free of charge
Non member £5

You can pay for your tickets by:
• Cheque (pounds sterling) - payable to the BAPCR and posted to: BAPCR, Rose Green, Broomham Lane, Whitesmith, East Sussex, BN8 6JQ
• BACS transfer - NatWest, Sort code: 53 50 33, Account number: 5300 0757

Please email Gemma Collins, BAPCR Secretary at with your name and email address details when you pay for your tickets.