At the close of World War II the Nazis, unwilling to share their art with the Russians, torched the Immendorf Castle in Lower Austria and the paintings inside it. Including three masterpieces by the Austrian symbolist painter, Gustav Klimt. Now, however, thanks to historical clues and artificial intelligence, Google and the Belvedere Museum in Vienna have been able to colorize black and white photos of the paintings. And they reveal what could be the jaw-dropping, vibrant originals.
To restore the three paintings, Emil Wallner, a resident at the Google Arts & Culture Lab, and Dr. Franz Smola, a curator at Belvedere, teamed up to develop a machine learning program; using stories of the paintings from journalists as well as reference works from Klimt from the same period as data points.
As Wallner notes in the video above, the program worked by having him apply reference colors to the black and white images. Using descriptive articles, one remaining color detail from “Medicine,” and other Klimt paintings as references, the AI then applied the reference colors to the black and white images in the way Klimt would’ve. Presumably.
As for the results? The three paintings astound just like all of Klimt’s other works. Each of the paintings has rich, vibrant color schemes and Klimt’s familiar flecks of gold. Medicine is perhaps the most familiar-looking piece (especially considering the extant color detail), but they all seem true to form. They also, however, seem uniquely grand for Klimt, who often only had one or two figures in his paintings. Which makes us wonder: How in the world could people have wanted these destroyed so badly? Hopefully Skynet will just leave them alone!