Google AR & VR – How machine learning revived long lost masterpieces by Klimt

Few artists enjoy such worldwide fame as Gustav Klimt. The new Google Arts & Culture online retrospective “Klimt vs. Klimt – The Man of Contradictions” puts the spotlight on the artist’s eclectic work and life. A Machine Learning experiment recolored photographs of lost Klimt paintings, while a “Pocket Gallery” brings some of his most iconic works into your living room in augmented reality and 3D. Together with more than 120 stories about his art and personality, a virtual tour of his studio, and many more highlights from the collections of over 30 cultural institutions around the world, “Klimt vs. Klimt” forms one of the most comprehensive online experiences about the artist.

Klimt’s legacy poses many unsolved questions, not least due to the fact that approximately 20% of his artworks were lost over the course of history. Among the most prominent and painful losses are the so-called Faculty Paintings, created on behalf of the University of Vienna and rejected by the latter for being overly critical towards science. In 1945, only days before the Second World War ended, the paintings were lost to a fire at Immendorf Castle in Austria. What these major works looked like could only be guessed at from black and white photographs taken in the early 1900s, unable were they to convey the magic that makes Klimt’s artworks so captivating — the bold colours, the revolutionary approach to textures, the shocking directness of his figures. Until today.

Using the opportunities offered by machine learning, enhanced by the knowledge of internationally renowned Klimt expert and curator at the Belvedere, Dr. Franz Smola, the team at the Google Arts & Culture Lab was able to reconstruct the colours that Klimt might have used for the Faculty Paintings, thus restoring them to their fully colored beauty. For the first time in 70 years, people can experience his artworks in the colors he might have used.

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Experience the art of Klimt in new ways online

The paintings are the true centerpiece of “Klimt vs. Klimt”. The retrospective brings together more than 120 of the artist’s most famous masterpieces, as well as lesser known works, and assembles an expertly curated selection in an immersive Pocket Gallery that you can experience in augmented reality on mobile or in 3D on web. This was made possible thanks to a collaboration between Google Arts & Culture and over 30 partners and institutions – with the Belvedere, the Albertina, the Klimt Foundation, the Neue Galerie New York and the Metropolitan Museum of Arts among them. Over 60 masterworks by Klimt have also been captured in ultra high resolution with Google’s Art Camera. Come in closer to see “The Kiss” like never before!

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