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Painting the industrial revolution

Posted November. 15, 2018 07:40,   

Updated November. 15, 2018 07:40


The recent sales of a picture painted by artificial intelligence for the first time in the auction house Christie’s 250-year history at 500 million won has definitely made the headlines. The developer of the algorithm used in this painting is a French art group called "Obvious." What is surprising is that this organization, which is comprised of an artist and three engineers, who are all 25 years old, were able to present an accomplishment that astonished the world in just a year since its establishment.

While the first phase of the industrial revolution, British artist Joseph Wright, desired to show the world of science of the time with paintings. The scientist in the painting is reenacting 17th-century natural philosopher and scientist Robert Boyle’s air pump experiment. With spectators surrounding him, the scientist is drawing out the air inside a glass bottle with a bird to a state of vacuum. Just before the young audience broke into tears, terrified of the scene, he would insert air and miraculously save the bird. It was in 1662 when "Boyle’s Law," which revealed the relation between the pressure and volume of gas, was announced. At the time Wright drew this painting, air pump was already a widespread scientific equipment and more of a science show that was practiced in a public space for money.

As can be seen from this picture, wealthy households would invite scientists to their houses and demonstrated this for their children’s education. In fact, Wright was a member of "Lunar Society," which was established in the British city of Birmingham in 1765. It was a group where experts from each field gather on the day of the full moon and discuss various interests all night long. James Watt, investor of steam engine, Joseph Priestley, chemist who discovered oxygen, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin, and entrepreneurs such as Mathew Bolton and Josiah Wedgwood were all members of the Lunar Society.

By recording the world of science technology of his time based on the details of the discussions he had at the Lunar Society, Wright became the first artist to express the spirit of industrial revolution. The full moon outside the window in the painting appears to symbolize the Lunar Society, where artists, scientists, and industrialists gathered and inspired each other. What kind of paintings would Wright have drawn if he were to live in today’s era of the fourth industrial revolution?