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Computer Grammars for the Syntactical Analysis of Paintings



Russell A. Kirsch, J Kirsch


How do we, as informed viewers, recognize an example of an artist?s work, a piece we have never seen before? We probably carry in our collection of visual memories, usually in some inarticulate fashion, a knowledge of formal regularities that an artist typically displays in his work. It is the syntactic nature of the work that we notice: the quality of lines, colors, shapes and their arrangements. We recognize paintings by what we see, not by what they mean. For example, we are little inclined to recognize a face by Modigliani or Soutine because one is serene and one is tortured (semantic qualities), but rather because each has a noticeably different technique for drawing and painting. Moreover, the way an artist treats a range of plastic opportunities, albeit handmaidens of meaning, will be his most enduring personal stamp. It is these plastic (syntactic) qualities, which can be expressed as a grammar, that we will address and explain in this paper.
World Art: Themes of Unity in Diversity


computer grammars, paintings, syntactical analysis


Kirsch, R. and Kirsch, J. (1989), Computer Grammars for the Syntactical Analysis of Paintings, World Art: Themes of Unity in Diversity, [online], (Accessed June 22, 2024)


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Created December 31, 1988, Updated October 12, 2021