Chardin, DALL-E and the Art of Emotion

“Good Morning, Sunshine”
copyright 2017, Molly Larson Cook
(painted by human hand)
9″ x 12″, acrylic and acrylic ink

“Who told you that one paints with colours?
One makes use of colours,
but one paints with emotions.”
— Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin

I have been asking myself what an artist like Chardin would have to say about art created by emotionless artificial intelligence. I believe Chardin and I would agree, and that does not mean I’m saying I know it all, just that in our definitions of art, emotion will be required.

Robert Henri, artist, teacher and writer, would also agree I think:
“The person who wants to produce art must have the emotional side first, and this must be reinforced by the practical...
The idea, which is the primal thing for a picture, is all in the air; the expression on canvas is a case of absolute science as it deals with materials. A great artist is both a great imaginer and a great employer of practical science. First there must be the person, then the technique.”
–The Art Spirit

It seems to me that those who are promoting AI art not only have it back-assward, but they are leaving emotion out entirely.

First comes the technology and then… and then… nada.

I am not a Luddite, and I don’t care what people want to do as they experiment with the technology, but I do care that they call it art and enter it in art competitions where others who have the requisite emotion, but not the “talent” of the computer are winning the prizes.

Just to be clear: I don’t enter art competitions. It’s not my thing. I am not speaking from the view of someone who lost to AI. The point, to me, is that we are all losing to AI when it becomes the emotionless “standard” for all art. And we are losing more than art competitions.

The robots will win, artificial “hands” down.

There are plenty of “apologies” being written these days in defense of AI and technology in the art world. I just ran onto this by Scott Rosenberg on AXIOS:

“Flashback: Technology has been reshaping the arts forever because art-making itself is a kind of technology.”

(To which I say, ask the artists who did the cave paintings how they did what they did.)

Rosenberg goes on:
“The introduction of photography in the 19th century didn’t end the work of painters, but it pushed them away from naturalism. Cinema did the same to theater. Recording changed music. Digital special effects continue to transform moviemaking.

(To which I say, but we did not call photographs “painting.”)

And then he ends his defense with this clincher (my emphasis):

Art, by definition, involves an intentional act of human expression. AI can’t do that by itself.”


Case in point:

Vermeer painted “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” applying his personal motto (as stated by Gregor Weber, head of fine art at the Rijksmuseum): simplicity, strong images not through many distracting details, but through the concentration on the essential.”

Here is the Dall-E Outpainting version of Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” Dall-E’s motto is clear: “Fill every inch of space with as many inane and distracting details as possible.

DALL-E has no “intentional act of human expression.” Dall-E does what it does because it (and its users) can.

I am not the only one concerned about this, dear reader. This article was in my morning news:

And please don’t tell me that a human has to enter the prompts for AI art. That may be right, and it may be something, but the only emotion I can sense behind this is “Whee! Look at me, Mom!”

To AI proponents everywhere:
Honor and do not change any original work. Call your new result by its right name, and that name is not Art. If you don’t have the imagination, the emotional fire and creative spirit to come up with your own ideas or a new name, step away from the computer and get a job.

As Chardin noted so long ago, “Who told you that one paints with colours? One makes use of colours, but one paints with emotions.”

3 thoughts on “Chardin, DALL-E and the Art of Emotion

  1. Looks to me like this is just another step in the wrong road we’re taking, where people are mistaking stuff like this and “reality TV” for the physical world that’s right in front of our eyes (as long as we go outside occasionally). It’s phony, and it’s certainly not to my taste. Ugh. At least I don’t have to buy it!

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