Vincent Van Gogh, the great painter, continues to captivate the world with his extraordinary art. However, amidst the buzz surrounding his iconic works, there’s always one question that lingers: What happened to his ear? AI Vincent Van Gogh, a digital avatar of the artist, patiently responds to inquiries about his infamous ear incident. Yet, the AI remains unimpressed by this repetitive question. “I apologize for any confusion, but it seems you are mistaken,” the avatar expresses in a testy tone reminiscent of our interactions with AI models. “I only cut off a small part of my ear lobe,” he insists, contradicting the various accounts of how he mutilated his ear. This AI incarnation of Van Gogh becomes part of a groundbreaking exhibition at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, shedding new light on the final weeks of the artist’s life in Auvers-sur-Oise, just north of the French capital.
This groundbreaking exhibition, running until February, delves into the last moments of Van Gogh’s life. The collection of approximately 40 paintings at the Musee d’Orsay highlights his extraordinary artistic output during this period, showcasing masterpieces such as “The Church at Auvers,” “Wheatfield with Crows,” and his final creation, “Tree Roots.” Surprisingly, despite the significance of these final weeks, they have never been given a dedicated showcase before. Christophe Leribault, the president of Musee d’Orsay, emphasizes the importance of this exhibition in finally providing the attention this period deserves.
Among the many highlights of the exhibition is a room dedicated to Van Gogh’s “double-square” panoramas, a technical innovation of its time. Using long and thin canvases, the artist showcased landscapes that prefigured the wide-screen landscapes of cinema. The inclusion of these panoramic masterpieces demonstrates the artist’s forward-thinking approach and his influence on the world of art.
As the exhibition reaches its conclusion, it seamlessly blends art with technology to appeal to young audiences. Visitors can engage with modern technologies such as a Van Gogh chatbot and virtual reality experiences. The virtual reality headset allows participants to step into the kitchen of Dr. Gachet, where Van Gogh spent his final weeks. Furthermore, they can embark on a surreal journey through an enlarged version of Van Gogh’s paint palette or immerse themselves in the intricate details of his last painting by exploring the tree roots in a fully immersive experience.
While the virtual reality experience offers an extraordinary opportunity to interact with Van Gogh’s world, the AI technologies responsible for creating the digital Van Gogh avatar still have some limitations. When asked about his favorite color, AI Vincent is certain of his answer – yellow. However, the avatar struggles to recognize people from his life, failing to recall the name of Dr. Gachet when questioned by a French journalist. Christophe Renaudineau, the head of Jumbo Mana, the Strasbourg start-up that developed the AI, acknowledges the need for further improvement in the technology’s ability to understand proper nouns, particularly in languages other than French. This experimental integration of AI and art presents an opportunity to refine and enhance the model.
In the end, Van Gogh’s final weeks, captured through art and technology, offer a glimpse into the mind of a genius struggling with his inner demons. As visitors immerse themselves in this unique exhibition, they gain a deeper appreciation for the artistic revolution sparked by Van Gogh’s unconventional techniques and the potential for technology to bridge the gap between past and present. The Musee d’Orsay’s dedication in shedding light on this lesser-known aspect of Van Gogh’s life paves the way for a broader understanding of his artistic brilliance, leaving a lasting impact on all who explore this immersive and transformative experience.