One of the pioneers of computer in the visual arts is Ohio’s own Lillian Schwartz. Born in Cincinnati in 1927, Lillian Schwartz began her career in computer art in the 1960’s, working at AT&T’s Bell Labs and advancing the field of digital art. Highly interested in this newly available medium, she was impressed by the ability of computer programs to manipulate images with fairly little execution. She has garnered much acclaim from the art world, academia, and the media (including nominations for Emmy’s and Academy Awards). Her work has often been displayed at OSU. For an in-depth biography of Lillian Schwartz, read here at

             She also has a fondness for comically large glasses…

“Night Scene” Computer-generated etched aluminum plate. Copyright © 1975/2004 Lillian F. Schwartz courtesy of the Lillian Feldman Schwartz  Collection, Ohio State University Library and Foundation. All rights reserved.


Here is an example of Schwartz’s work a few years after her introduction to computer art (1975). The artwork, called “Night Scene”, displays an image of an urban environment at night, complete with large buildings, lights, and a single star in the sky. Schwartz displays the ability of a computer to achieve a level of refinement in artmaking that humans cannot readily emulate.


“Mona Leo” by Lillian Schwartz


This is perhaps Lillian Schwartz’s most recognizable artwork, “Mona Leo,” in which an image of Leonardo da Vinci’s self-portrait sketch is superimposed over his classic Mona Lisa painting. While this piece probably did not require much execution (a simple cut and paste, really), it invites us to think about the Mona Lisa in relation to its creator, Leonardo da Vinci. The facial structure of the sketch and the painting are similar, with da Vinci’s face fitting squarely upon Mona Lisa’s. This piece of art reveals something about da Vinci as an artist, and places a new perspective upon the renaissance man’s timeless painting.