The reputation of some of the world’s most important paintings precede themselves through international common knowledge. From portraits and landscapes through to abstract and still-life paintings, these works remain central to the world’s understanding of fine art – and for this reason, the originals are priceless. Witnessed by the general public only through the high-security veil of the art gallery or museum, the texture of an original classic can rarely be experienced by sight, and can absolutely never be experienced by touch. That is, until now.
Down to each individual brushstroke and time-weathered detail of an original oil paining’s façade, a Vancouver-based company is using 3D printing technology to recreate famous paintings for everyone to enjoy. Through a collaborative partnership with US design firm Larson-Juhl and Dutch Océ, A Canon Company, Arius Technologies (a company which focuses on 3D scanning) have come to together to create Verus Art. In a true combination of history and modern technologies, the group aims to recreate priceless canvas/oil paintings through 3D scanning and 3D printing processes – creating a final replica product which can be admired and touched in a new form of art education.
In order to create a true like-for-like art object, the processes used in this way are extremely meticulous. “It will measure the surface of the painting to ten microns, which is about one tenth of a human hair,” said Paul Lindhal, CEO of Arius Technologies. Extremely careful and extensive scans of original works can take up to eighteen hours, after which the 3D data is sent to Holland where the reproduction is produced. The layering of a polymer ink onto an aluminium canvas certainly delivers a thoroughly contemporary approach to classic works form the 19th – 20th century Western story of art – so much so that reproduced pieces even include Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpiece The Iris. This painting was first created within a series of studies in 1889, and its sister work Irises was last sold for a reported $53.9 million at auction. For Verus Art to acquire the rights to scan this Van Gogh master at all is a testimony to the group’s ambition.
Painting as an art historical medium has had a tumultuous journey and transition between the worlds of three and two dimensions. Oil paintings like those of Van Gogh were (and still are) celebrated for bringing the canvas to life through their use of thick paint and lively brushstrokes, which seemingly extended the otherwise flat image into a three dimensional phenomenon. There’s no doubt that contemporary 3D scanning and printing technologies are developing that art history even further – and what’s even more beneficial about art projects like these is the educational impact that true-to-life replicas can inspire. From museums to schools, the opportunity to touch and feel the surface of a priceless painting is in itself priceless. “This a great example of an application of 3D printing that will impact everyone”, mentioned Lindhal while describing the impact of Verus Art – and there’s no doubt that this single perspective of a varied new arts industry could continue to impact many other people and professions in the future.