Fractals determine date of paintings
Jun 4, 1999
Paintings by the late Jackson Pollock - considered to be one of the fathers of modern art - can be dated by fractal geometry according to Australian physicists (Nature 399 422). Pollock's artwork during the late 1940s consisted of paint dripped from a can onto large canvases spread out on the floor of his barn. Richard Taylor, Adam Micolich and David Jonas from the University of New South Wales in Sydney discovered that the fractal dimension of Pollock's drip paintings increased from nearly 1.0 in 1943, to 1.72 in 1952, suggesting that Pollock gradually refined his technique over to time to make his painting more fine grained.
The physicists scanned a series of Pollock's artworks into a computer and masked each painting with a series of grids. They then counted the number of squares that contained part of the painted pattern (N) - using the well-know 'box-counting' method of fractal geometry - and reduced the size of the squares (L). The largest square was the size of the painting while the smallest was 1mm. The fractal behaviour of the painting could then be pinpointed by plotting a log graph between the two values N and L. They discovered that Pollock's paintings consist of two distinct fractal patterns. One was determined by the paint dripping on the canvas and gradually becomes finer over time. The other pattern was shaped by his motions around the canvas.