Wigner Colloquia / Wigner kollokvium

The history of visual arts through the eyes of physics

by Prof. Matjaz Perc (University of Maribor, Slovenia)

Building 1, Meeting room (KFKI campus)

Building 1, Meeting room

KFKI campus

Budapest, Konkoly Thege Miklos u 29-33

The 20th century is often referred to as the century of physics. From x-rays to the semiconductor industry, the human society today would indeed be very different were it not for the progress made in physics laboratories around the world [1,2]. What the past 100 years have been for science, the past millennium has been for the arts. From the late Byzantine and Islamic art to Renaissance, Realism and Pop art, the past 1000 years are packed with the most productive periods of our creative existence. The availability of digitized visual artworks allows us to perform large-scale quantitative analysis of the history of art. We have analyzed almost 150,000 visual artworks [3], the majority of which were paintings, by more than 2,300 artists created between the years 1031 and 2016. Based on the complexity and entropy of spatial patterns in the artworks, we were able to hierarchically categorize the artworks on a scale of order-disorder and simplicity-complexity, ultimately revealing a temporal evolution of the artworks that coincides with the main historical periods of art. Our research indicates a shift in data science, away from semantics [4] towards the quantification of more subjective properties of artworks like aesthetics and beauty.




[1] M. Perc, Self-organization of progress across the century of physics, Sci. Rep. 3, 1720 (2013)

[2] T. Kuhn, M. Perc, D. Helbing, Inheritance patterns in citation networks reveal scientific memes, Phys. Rev. X 4, 041036 (2014)

[3] H. Y. D. Sigaki, M. Perc, H. V. Ribeiro, History of art paintings through the lens of entropy and complexity, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 115, E8585-E8594 (2018)

[4] R. Markovic, M. Gosak, M. Perc, M. Marhl, V. Grubelnik, Applying network theory to fables: Complexity in Slovene belles-lettres for different age groups, J. Complex Netw. (2018) doi: 10.1093/comnet/cny018