• 10.02.17-21.05.17
  • TUE–FRI 12:00–20:00
  • SAT–SUN 12:00–18:00

Portrait of a Man

Pan Fubin (CN)

Portrait of a Man

This painting is the human translation of an image created using artificial intelligence for The Next Rembrandt project. Artist Pan Fublin is an experienced replicator of famous oil paintings by old masters; in this case, however, the subject of his commission was not a known icon of art history, but the output of algorithms trained to mimic the style, composition, color, lighting, and even the brush strokes of Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669) to create a new picture. The first edition of this image was 3D printed on canvas, but was unavailable for exhibition, leading to the idea to find a person to interpret it.

The result is a portrait of a machine’s dream, expressed here through human hands. It is an invitation to consider whether the human touch in creativity is necessary. Must a work of art contain the sort of minuscule flaws, interpretive alterations, or improvisations that only arise from a human mind while it makes art? Pan thought the image was impressive, but that computers ultimately “cannot create emotional value.” To him, the artificial intelligence is too perfect a system of rules or commands, which are at odds with creativity.

Pan’s painting required hundreds of hours of work, by hand, based on thousands of hours of experience, and used technology very much like that used by Rembrandt in the 17th century. Does this make it more genuine, or more significant an artifact, than the version made with a 3D printer based on pixels and heat maps? Is it a new kind of art, a kind of creative double negative: a fake of a fake made possible by machine learning?


Pan lives and works in the Dafen village in Shenzhen, China. He began studying oil painting as an apprentice while still a teenager. He first specialized in the work of 19th century French academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau, and admires and studies the work of artists like Ilya Yefimovich Repin, John Singer Sargent, and Anders Zorn. His English is quite good and he can be contacted for commissions through e-mail at dz2006528@163.com. He goes by the working name “Dong Zi.”