Lillian F. Schwartz is a pioneer of computer-generated art. With a background in Fine Arts, she worked at Bell Labs between 1968 and 2001, contributing to groundbreaking research on computer graphics, video and 3D animation.


Website of Lillian F. Schwartz:

Cincinnati, OH (USA), 1927

Lillian F. Schwartz joined the US cadet program and got her degree at the College of Nursing & Health of the University of Cincinnati in 1947. In 1949 she was stationed in Fukuoka (Japan), and contracted polio, which paralysed her for a time. As part of her recovery, she learned Chinese brushwork with the artist Tshiro, which helped her regain control of her body. About that experience, she would later state that she learned to think about the images she wanted to create before executing them. During the 1950s and 1960s she continued studying art techniques such as oil painting, sculpture, watercolour, and printmaking, with a growing interest in kinetic art and experimentation with new materials. In 1966, she became a member of the group Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), working in collaboration with engineers and other artists. Her interactive kinetic sculpture Proxima Centauri (1968) was included in the landmark exhibition The Machine at The End of Mechanical Age at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which brought attention to her work.

Leon Harmon invited her to join Bell Labs as a consultant, and there she began collaborating with several engineers, often contributing new perspectives to their research projects. She also developed an extended collaboration with artist and software engineer Ken Knowlton. Together they created a series of computer animations that were among the first to be exhibited as works of art. At Bell Labs, Schwartz learned computer programming and film and animation techniques, which she combined with traditional forms of art making. Her particular approach to using computers in the creation and analysis of artworks has led to pioneering work in computer graphics, film, video, special effects, virtual reality and multimedia. Part of her work has been dedicated to applying computer-aided analysis to works of art, specifically the works of Italian Renaissance masters, which have been invaluable to art historians and restorers.

In 1987 she became a faculty member of the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and has since continued her research and teaching activities as a lecturer and adjunct professor at several universities, having been appointed as a committee member of the National Research Council Committee on Information Technology and Creativity under the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of The National Academies. In 2015, ACM SIGGRAPH presented her with the Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement in Digital Art.

Schwartz’s artworks have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Moderna Museet (Stockholm), Centre Beauborg (Paris), Stedlijk Museum of Art (Amsterdam), the Grand Palais Museum (Paris), and at many galleries and festivals worldwide. Her films have been presented at the Venice Biennale and the Cannes Film Festival, among others, and have received numerous awards. She has also been the subject of many articles, books, and television news and documentary programs.

Schwartz, L. F. (1988). The Mona Lisa identification: evidence from a computer analysis. The Visual Computer, Vol.4, No.222. [EN]
–– (1995). The Art Historian’s Computer. Scientific American. Vol. 272, No. 4, April 1995, pp. 106-111. [EN]
–– (1996). Computers and Appropriation Art: The Transformation of a Work or Idea for a New Creation. Leonardo, Vol. 29, No. 1, pp. 43-49. [EN]
–– (1998). Computer-aided illusions: ambiguity, perspective, and motion. The Visual Computer. Vol.14, N0. 2, pp. 52–68. [EN]

Schwartz, L. F. and Schwartz L.R. (1992). The Computer Artist’s Handbook: Concepts, Techniques, and Applications. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. [EN]