Lillian Schwartz is best known for her pioneering work in the use of computers for what has since become known as computer-generated art and computer-aided art analysis, including graphics, film, video, animation, special effects, Virtual Reality and Multimedia. Her work was recognized for its aesthetic success and was the first in this medium to be acquired by The Museum of Modern Art.
Her contributions in starting a new field of endeavor in the arts, art analysis, and the field of virtual reality have been recently awarded Computer-World Smithsonian Awards. Schwartz began her computer art career as an offshoot of her merger of art and technology, which culminated in the selection of her kinetic sculpture, Proxima Centauri, by The Museum of Modern Art for its epoch-making 1968 Machine Exhibition. She then expanded her work into the computer area, becoming a consultant at the AT&T Bell Laboratories, IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Laboratory and at Lucent Technologies Bell Labs Innovations. On her own, and with leading scientists, engineers, physicists, and psychologists, she developed effective techniques for the use of the computer in film and animation.
Besides establishing computer art as a viable field of endeavor, Schwartz additionally contributed to scientific research areas such as visual and color perception, and sound. Her own personal efforts have led to the use of the computer in the philosophy of art, whereby data bases containing information as to palettes and structures of paintings, sculptures and graphics by artists such as Picasso and Matisse are used by Schwartz to analyze the choices of those artists and to investigate the creative process itself.
Her contributions to electronic art analysis, and restoration, have been recognized, specifically in Italian Renaissance painting and frescoe. Her work with colleagues to construct 3-dimensional models of the Refectory at Santa Maria Grazie to study the perspective construction of Leonardo’s Last Supper and, more recently, a finite element model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa to aid in the preservation of the tower in understanding its structure, have proved invaluable to Art Historians and Restorers.
Schwartz’s education began immediately after World War II when she studied Chinese brushwork with Tshiro in Japan. Over the following years she studied the fine arts with professionals such as Giannini, Kearns, and Joe Jones. She is self-taught with regard to film and computer interfacing, and programming. Schwartz has always had close ties to the academic community, having been a visiting member of the Computer Science Department at the University of Maryland; an adjunct professor at the Kean College, Fine Arts Department; an adjunct professor at The Rutger’s University Visual Arts Department; an adjunct professor at the Psychology Department, School of Arts and Sciences, New York University; and is currently a member of the International Guidance Panel, under the co-sponsorship for The Society for Excellence Through Education, Israel, Teachers College, Columbia University and S.A.G.E., and a Member of the Graduate Faculty of The School of Visual Arts, NYC. She has also been an Artist in Residence at Channel 13, WNET. Schwartz’s work has been much in demand internationally both by museums and festivals. For example, her films have been shown and won awards at the Venice Biennale, Zagreb, Cannes, The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and nominated and received Emmy nominations and award. Her work has been exhibited at and is owned by museums such as The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Moderna Museet (Stockholm), Centre Beauborg (Paris), Stedlijk Museum of Art (Amsterdam), and the Grand Palais Museum (Paris).
Representing the United States, Schwartz has been a guest lecturer in over two dozen countries, ranging from the Royal College of Art in London to the US/China Cultural Relations speaker in the People’s Republic of China. Schwartz has also had numerous other fellowships, and honors conferred upon her, including a Doctor of Humane Letters Honoris Causa from Kean College, New Jersey, and grants from the National Endowment For The Arts and The Corporation For Public Broadcasting. Most recently she has received Computerworld Smithsonian Awards in three categories: For the Application of the Computer as a Medium in the Arts, including Graphics, Film/Video, and Special Effects; pioneering work in the field of Virtual Reality; and for her contributions in special editing techniques in Media and Arts & Entertainment.
She has been the subject of numerous articles, books, and television news and documentary programs. She is a Fellow in The World Academy of Art & Science. She has been appointed as a committee member of the National Research Council Committee on IInformation Technology and Creativity under the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of The National Academies from May, 2000 to December, 2001. Schwartz is the author (together with Laurens R. Schwartz) of The Computer Artist’s Handbook, W.W. Norton & Company.
Comments by Patrick Purcell – London,England
Fundamental to Lillian Schwartz’s art is the need to experiment.
Schwartz’s concern with the creation of new visions is almost always based upon
an intellectual approach. Her early work in traditional media encompassing oils, watercolors, acrylics, collage, and sculpture demonstrate a break from the norm. Her use of the computer since 1968 make evident her struggles and successes in mastering a new technology to give birth to a fascinating body of work that surprisingly disguises the brain power behind it. The art itself lures the viewer rather than the media used to create it.
Studying her early work one wonders how Schwartz would have worked if she hadn’t been left to her own devices, if she had had a more traditional schooling?
Her childhood environment was one of poverty and illness. She was number 12 of thirteen children. By age thirteen she had lost six siblings and a father.
One way she coped with such deprivation was through music. Her Mother loved opera and would take the children to the Cincinnati Zoo in the summer where the Metropolitan Opera Company performed. Her mother paid admission for herself and wheeled the youngest baby into the Zoo for free. Schwartz and the other children climbed over the fence. The family would sit and play outside the tent while listening to the music. Schwartz also learned to play the piano from her sister and the violin in school. Another way was by allowing her mind to wander, to use her imagination to create beauty. But fantasy alone can be destructive. Even in her early years she understood the necessity for intellectual pursuits. And that from these pursuits her fantasy world could be enriched.
In her grammar school years Schwartz was taken to the Cincinnati Art Museum. Her memories of these visits were of large figurative marble statues. She felt the Museum trips were pleasant but that she was outside the work. Schwartz was in her late teens before she became aware of other artists works.
She wasn’t content to simply observe and respond to these works but found she was compelled to try to find the artist’s intent in producing such a work.
In her early 20′s she was introduced to Hiroshige and other Ukioy-e artists in Japan.
In her mid 20′s she was attracted to and bought a calendar with Rembrandt’s sketches. These pen and ink and washes became a strong focus for investigations and then an influence on her own work. Later, she was attracted to the work of Matisse, Van Gogh, and Picasso, and the work and writings of Leonardo. Her current studies are the frescoes of Piero della Francesca.
Schwartz’s method has always been to analyze a work, take it apart in terms of composition, technique, and color. Then she would actually work in the style of a Master until she integrated the work ethic. The final step in her process is to create away from the work to realize her own conceptions.
Schwartz’s modus operandi seems to follow a standard where she is attracted to an artist, reads and studies the person and the work, files this information away until she has extended or invented a new way to work with a medium to express an interpretation of the creative energies bursting from the work of the artist in favor at the moment.
Schwartz is in love with learning. Looking to the past in order to go into the future.
In the 50′s and early 60′s she was open to the action of the art world around her but had her own unique way of expressing what might be called Pop art with her sculpture “What Little Boys Are Made Of”, “Come Alive”, and others exhibited at the Rabin & Krueger Gallery in Newark. Even though she had great public success with these works and a number of kinetic sculptures her curiosity about the computer won her out.
Once she made the leap into the realm of computers she left her artist colleagues behind and with that rupture, interaction, ideological sympathies, debates, arguments.
Her world became isolated but the rewards of forging ahead, developing a new medium that would open ways of working for herself and other artists that were impossible before, became her goal.
A major influence then, on her work, came from the scientists, their jargon, their labs.
From this source can be traced her early films, all with a relation, a counterpart in the science world.
Her images were suggestive of atoms, contour plots, wave motion.
Other influences were the films of the cubists, how they handled painting into motion. The experimental films of Duchamp, Man Ray and others. It was the continuing self education, the fascination with the world of science, that absorbed her through the late 60′s and 70′s.
1988 Doctor of Humane Letters Honoris Causa, Kean College, NJ
1947 Graduate College of Nursing & Health; Univ. of Cinti. Ohio
1949-50 Chinese Brushwork with Tshiro; Fukuoka, Japan
1950 Oil Painting with Val; St. Louis, MO.
1954-55 Drawing/Design with Ugo Giannini (School of Leger).
1958-59 Oil Painting with Michael Lenson; Montclair Art Museum.
1958 Sculpture with James Kearns.
1959 Graphics/Printmaking Department of Fine Arts; Upsala College
1960 Oil Painting with Adolph Konrad.
1964 Watercolor with Joe Jones.
1968 Computer Math; New School, Manhattan, NY.
1969 Introduction to Computers; John Vollaro, Bell Labs.
1969 Film and Animation; Bell Labs Education Dept.
1969 Techniques to create color filters for Post Production;
1968- Consultant Bell Laboratories
(formerly AT&T, now Lucent Technologies)
1987- Graduate Faculty. School of Visual Arts, New York City, NY
1992- Director Save The Leaning Tower of Pisa in collaboration with
Professor Madara Ogot, Rutgers University and PhD candidate
Zheng Zhou. URL: http://cronos.rutgers.edu/~ogot/pisa/
Last modified: JANUARY 2, 2013