Good news, owners of Gameboy Cameras! New technology will now up-res and almost accurately colorize those grainy low-res spinach photos.
Jokes aside, there are some pretty amazing things being done these days in the world of neural net-trained image enhancements. See also this crazy research on using Google Brain to reasonably “zoom! enhance!” photos as small as 8×8 pixels (we used to laugh at crime drama TV shows and their unbelievable photo techniques…but now it’s getting pretty close…)
Computational image processing researchers at Northwestern University teamed up with art historians from the Art Institute of Chicago to investigate the colors originally laid down by Matisse while he was working on Bathers by a River:
Researchers at Northwestern University used information about Matisse’s prior works, as well as color information from test samples of the work itself, to help colorize a 1913 black-and-white photo of the work in progress. Matisse began work on Bathers in 1909 and unveiled the painting in 1917.
In this way, they learned what the work looked like midway through its completion. “Matisse tamped down earlier layers of pinks, greens, and blues into a somber palette of mottled grays punctuated with some pinks and greens,” says Sotirios A. Tsaftaris, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern. That insight helps support research that Matisse began the work as an upbeat pastoral piece but changed it to reflect the graver national mood brought on by World War I.
The Art Institute has up a nice mini-site about Bathers and the accompanying research, including some great overlays on top of the old photos to show the various states the painting went through during the years of its creation.