Anyone can talk to Van Gogh. Thanks to artificial intelligence

12. 07. 2023 | Kristýna Bezděková

Next month marks 133 years since the death of Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a chat with him. In a unique project, the artist was “brought to life” using artificial intelligence at the giant technology fair VivaTech, held last week in Paris. This was reported by French public radio station RFI.

The project was a collaboration between Strasbourg-based technology firm Jumbo Man, the Orsay Museum in Paris and Wouter van der Veen, an expert on the life and work of Van Gogh. The result is a three-dimensional likeness that answers curious questions using artificial intelligence and by analysing the artist’s letters.

The painter’s visual likeness was created based on his many self-portraits, and the AI uses the content of the letters he wrote. The creators of the technology decided to add a Dutch accent to his answers, as Van Gogh was from Amsterdam.

“Our goal was not to create an ordinary chatbot or avatar that you could talk to. We tried to capture Van Gogh’s personality, and we used only trusted information about him to do so,” said Fatma Chelly from the Jumbo Man team.

Visitors could hear his voice through headphones that could be rented at the fair. However, answers were also displayed in writing under his animated portrait.

This was one of the most sought-after displays at VivaTech. Jumbo Man’s boss, Christophe Renaudineau, noted that the most common question people asked the eminent artist was why he had cut off his ear. “I cut off my left ear because I suffered from severe mental anguish and depression,” the virtual Van Gogh replied to visitors.

“I was 23 years old when I lost my job. At 26, I tried to find my calling, in vain. When I wanted to set up an art studio in Arles, I also failed,” the digital version of the genius painter, who shot himself in the stomach at the age of 37, described his life story. Unaware of his fatal wound, he made his way to the Ravoux Inn, where he died two days later.

Those who missed the fair last week need not mourn. From October onwards, Van Gogh will be available to talk to at the Orsay Museum in Paris, where he will be part of the exhibition. After that, the unique 3D project is to be exhibited for one more year in Auvers-sur-Oise, where Van Gogh ended his life and is buried.


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Author of this article

Kristýna Bezděková

Kristýna is a student of marketing and communication in an undergraduate program. She writes and translates content into the Czech language


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