Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

The Anatomy of Painting Style: Description with Computer Rules



Russell A. Kirsch, J Kirsch


Abstract-Experts recognize artistic style by invoking knowledge of plastic elements and their juxtaposition. Algorithmic methods now make it possible for this knowledge to be expressed to a computer. Compared to the alternative of describing style in natural language, the computer methods offer the advantage that they can be tested for validity. The tests are accomplished by using the computer to generate new compositions in the style described. The authors demonstrate these methods with algorithmic descriptions of the styles of Richard Diehenkorn and Joan Miro'' and the generation of new compositions in their styles. A shape grammar algorithm for Diebenkorn is presented which accounts for the linear facture of his Ocean Park series. The problem of shape in Miro?s work is tackled, and progress is reported on synthesizing composition in the style of his Constellation series. Further uses of algorithmic description of painting styles include mechanical storage, search and retrieval in art archives, attribution studies and diachronic studies of stylistic change.


algorithmic methods, anatomy, computer methods, juxtaposition, painting style, plastic elements


Kirsch, R. and Kirsch, J. (1988), The Anatomy of Painting Style: Description with Computer Rules, Leonardo, [online], (Accessed April 15, 2024)
Created December 31, 1987, Updated October 12, 2021