Anthony Bourached and George Cann recreated a hidden Picasso painting using AI technology through their company Oxia Palus. (Source: Anthony Bourached)

Picasso Painting Hidden Under Paint Recreated by AI Program

Two art-loving students might find themselves in legal trouble by training an AI to paint like Pablo Picasso. That in itself might seem pretty harmless, but a story from brings out the hidden details. Just like the AI was programmed to do.

In 2010, Picasso’s 1903 masterpiece “The Blind Man’s Meal” was x-rayed and found to have a different painting underneath. Nobody disputes that. However, what is disputed is who owns the rights to that “Hidden Nude” as it is known to the art world?

AI experts Anthony Bourached and George Cannwho, both doctoral researchers at Britain’s University College London, decided to recreate the hidden nude by training AI to replicate Picasso’s brushstrokes using an algorithm that allowed it to analyze dozens of his past works.

Using the 2010 x-ray as a starting point, the AI was able to reproduce a version of the painting, which was given texture and printed onto canvas using three-dimensional printing technology. Their work represented a “new frontier” for the use of AI in the art world, Bourached told NBC News in a phone interview on Oct. 12, a day before the piece was set to be unveiled at the Deeep AI Art Fair in London. It was

Legal Issues Involve Art and Music

However, the folks for Picasso’s estate took umbrage to the reproduction of the painting. On the evening of the showing, the duo received a letter from  U.K. representatives of Picasso’s estate demanding that they cancel the unveiling and cease any use of Picasso’s works, citing an “infringement of rights.”

The Piccaso estate also said AI could never paint with the human touch like Picasso displayed. Then the legal arguments got heated. And the art critics themselves began to disagree about the painting that AI did as well.

Emily Gould, a senior researcher at the Institute of Art and Law, was not convinced by the Pro-AI painting argument, however.

While there are ongoing discussions around the world about artificial intelligence and copyright law, she said, as it stands “in the U.K., AI as such is not treated as a being or something you can sue.”

And because Picasso’s works are “already in copyright,” she said, “generally, you would need to get consent to reproduce those works.”

Ahmed Elgammal, who heads the Art and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Rutgers University in New Jersey, has personally had to weigh similar issues as he led a project to “finish” Ludwig van Beethoven’s last symphony over the past two years.

A recent production of the AI-finished symphony had the same kind of effect on people. Some loved it. Some felt the humanity was missing from the piece.

It is not going to be possible to stop people from creating creative algorithms. The issue will continue to be raised until legal precedents are set.