Herbert W. Franke | i |
last name: Franke
first name: Herbert W.
also known as: Dinosaur of Computer Art
birthday: May 14, 1927
birth-place: Vienna (Austria)
death date: July 16, 2022
died in: Egling (Bavaria)

Herbert W. Franke was a physicist, science fiction writer, artist, curator, author of theoretical books and essays, and speleologist (cave researcher). In one word: He was a Renaissance man. Of particular interest in our current context of digital or algorithmic art, are his contributions to this field. As one of the very first, he started this stream of work in the mid-1950s when he used an oscilloscope and a camera to generate patterns of arrangements of continuous lines (“analog” graphics). He first exhibited these in 1956, only a few years after Ben F. Laposky had in the USA done experiments of similar kind.

Soon after first algorithmically generated graphics had been exhibited in galleries in Stuttgart and New York (in 1965), Franke became interested in digital technology. He published the first comprehensive history of computer art in 1971 (under the title »Computergrafik – Computerkunst«. München: Bruckmann, later by Springer Verlag; there is also an English translation). Franke has written innumerable essays on computer art and related subjects. He has organized numerous exhibitions, and lectured worldwide on the subject. Since the early 1970s, he has contributed a comprehensive work of digital art. Some of his programs were written in collaboration with other authors.

Franke’s oeuvre finds its place in the cross-over of scientific and artistic methods. His two large collections of works of computer art found a new and permanent home at Kunsthalle Bremen.

He liked to call himself the “Dinosaur of computer art”. In a way, he was, when we neglect the difference of analogue and digital computer equipment. The interesting fact here is that Franke did his first images by photographing drawings of curves from the screen of an oscilloscope, i.e. an analogue device. This kind of device had no chance display anything different. Therefore, there was a jump in thinking from analogue to digital drawing.


1945-50 Franke studies physics, mathematics, chemistry, psychology and philosophy at the University of Vienna
1950 DPhil. in Physics from the University of Vienna.
Commissioned research in electrical engineering (?) at the Technical University of Vienna.
1952-57 Works for Siemens AG in Erlangen. Begins to practice experimental photography.
1955-56 Analog pendular oscillogrammes, a pioneering achievement.
Since 1956 Freelance author of science fiction novels, and in other fields of writing; German Science Fiction Award in 1985 and 1991.
1961-62 Continues work on analog electronic graphics: film production Tanz der Elektronen.
1962 Starts work on experimental aesthetics.
From 1965 Temporary teaching jobs, since 1968 primarily on cybernetic aesthetics and computer art: in 1965 at the International College in Alpbach/Tirol (Austria), 1968/69 at the University of Frankfurt am Main, 1973-97 at the University of Munich, 1979/80 at the Polytechnic in Bielefeld, 1984-98 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.
1969 First plotter drawings, in collaboration with Siemens research laboratory in Munich. His first digital graphics are KAES (Kurven aesthetisch).
1970 Participates in the experimental exhibition at the 35th Biennale di Venezia, alongside artists Frieder Nake and Georg Nees.
1971 Book Computergrafik – Computerkunst (Computer Graphics – Computer Art), a first comprehensive history of computer art.
1972 A series of Einstein portraits are early examples of Picture Processing.
1978 President of the artistic council of the Gesellschaft für Computergrafik und Computerkunst e.V., founded in Munich in 1978.
1979 Co-founder of Festival Ars Electronica in Linz (Austria).
1980 Title of a professor from the Austrian Ministry of Education and Art.
1987 Computer Art Award of the Association of German Software Producers.
1992 Karl Theodor Vogel Prize for Journalism in Technology.
1993 Co-founder of the Media Laboratory in Munich.
2002 Dr.-Benno-Wolf Prize for his achievements in the field of speleology.
2008 Honoring him at the time of his 80th birthday, exhibitions, panel discussions, talks in various places in Germany and Austria.
2022 16 July, dies in Egling (Germany) at age of 95
Artist Groups
posted about 6 years ago
My father Shams ul Haq (late) and my mother visited your place in 1974. The year when Germany won soccer. We were presented your book of CAD.My mother still remember those Good times... Regards Najm ul Haq.
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