It’s obvious why museums forbid visitors from touching works of art, but I know I’m not alone when I say I’ve been tempted to step up to a painting and lightly run my fingertips over its surface. So many great works of art are much more than just their color and composition – it’s their texture, the visible sweep of paint and the thickness of brush strokes that make them so striking. This is true for certain artists in particular – like, for instance, Van Gogh, a master of the impasto technique of slapping down thick layers of paint in forceful strokes.
While it’s easy to find a print of your favorite painting, mass-produced prints never live up to the original, especially where artists like Van Gogh or Monet, another fan of thick paint and heavy brush strokes, are concerned. Without the texture of the paint, Starry Night just looks, well, flat. It’s still beautiful, but once you’ve seen the original in a museum, a reproduction just can’t compare.
While 3D printing has opened up an entirely new medium in visual art, it’s been mostly separate from more traditional art forms like painting. Georgia-based Verus Art, however, is blurring the lines by using 3D scanning and printing to create fully textured reproductions of famous paintings. Vancouver-based Arius Technology, one of the three companies that makes up Verus Art (along with Atlanta-based Larson Juhl, a Berkshire Hathaway company, and Venlo-based Océ, a Canon company), has developed a highly specialized, precise painting scanning process that captures both the color and the height of every millimeter of the painting surface to a tolerance of less than a human hair.
The scans are then converted into 3D models and 3D printed with an Océ full-color elevated printer. Special technology developed by Verus Art ensures that the colors of the print are as close as possible to the colors of the original paint, and each master print is taken to a museum curator for comparison with the original before being approved.
The results are paintings that may as well be clones of original works. If you’ve got a few thousand dollars, you can purchase your own 3D printed reproduction of your favorite painting to study up close, to touch and examine its texture without being accosted by museum security guards.
Now Verus Art has introduced a new collection of twelve paintings reproduced from the National Gallery of Canada. The collection includes several works from textural masters Van Gogh and Monet, as well as other European luminaries such as Degas, Gauguin, Cézanne and Canadian painters Tom Thomson and Frederick Varley. Prices range from $500 to $5,050.
“The launch of the National Gallery of Canada Collection reflects a significant technical achievement and a number of years of research by Arius Technology, Larson-Juhl and Océ,” said Drew Van Pelt, CEO of Larson-Juhl, which creates frames for the paintings. “Until now, fine art reproductions were two-dimensional, lacking depth and texture. By accurately reproducing the colour and relief of the artist’s brushstrokes, art enthusiasts have a more engaging experience, faithful to the artist’s original intent and vision.”
Portions of the proceeds from the limited edition collection will be used to establish a Verus Art educational fund, while the royalties the National Gallery of Canada receives from each sale will also go towards educational programming. The Gallery will be provided with several 3D printed reproductions for its own use in outreach and education, too, and the digital files will be made available for scientific analysis and conservation programs.
“To be able to assist in the development of a technology that will change the way we document and reproduce cultural heritage was an interesting opportunity,” said Stephen Gritt, Director, Conservation and Technical Research, National Gallery of Canada. “The scan data is incredibly rich and will lead to new avenues of research within Technical Art History. The resulting prints provide so much more information than flat images-they give you a direct connection to the artist by showing the nature of the brushwork, the texture of the paint, and physical interplay of tints. Most important for us was how we could use the prints for education as part of our Distance Learning Program –that’s a new frontier well worth exploring.”
Of course, no replica, even an extremely accurate 3D one, can ever take the place of an original painting crafted by an artist’s hands. The 3D printed reproductions from Verus Art may be just about as close as many people ever get to seeing their favorite pieces in their full glory.
“The National Gallery of Canada has been an incredible partner in this adventure, not only with providing access to their collection but sharing with us their vision for the future of art and heritage,” said Paul Lindahl, CEO, Co-Founder and Director of Arius Technology. “Now with our Verus Art partners Larson-Juhl and Océ, we are ready to lead the transformation of the multi-billion dollar fine art reproduction industry from its 2D past into a 3D future, changing the way people from around the world experience art.”