The Henry Ford in Dearborn has acquired the Lillian F. Schwartz Collection. Comprised of more than 5,000 2-D and 3-D items, the collection contains Schwartz’s artwork, personal papers, photographs, books, and more, spanning from her childhood into her late career.
Best known for her pioneering work in computer-generated art and computer-aided art analysis, Schwartz created groundbreaking film, video, animation, special effects, virtual reality, and multimedia works of art throughout her career.
“A true visionary, Lillian broke barriers and mastered an art-form, at a time when the average person didn’t own a computer,” says Patricia Mooradian, president and CEO of The Henry Ford. “While Lillian Schwartz’s work has been admired and displayed by museums before, it is a great honor to be the official home of her collection and preserve her unique and inspiring story moving forward.”
Born in 1927 in Cincinnati, Schwartz’s creativity was apparent at an early age and encouraged by her mother. In her early artistic practice, she experimented with painting, drawing, and sculpture, before turning to technology to extend her artwork and bring it to life.
In 1968, her kinetic sculpture “Proxima Centauri” was selected as part of The Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) “The Machine at the End of the Mechanical Age” exhibit. From there, she expanded her work into the computer arena, becoming one of the first resident artists at AT&T Bell Laboratories (1969-2002) and later acted as a consultant at A&T, IBM, and Lucent Technologies.
“My mother had a long career with breakthroughs in every medium, becoming one of the most celebrated and exhibited artists of the 20th Century,” says her son, Laurens Schwartz. “It was important to find an institution that represented the same history of advancements in the world of science and art seen throughout Lillian’s career.
“The Henry Ford’s collection exemplifies the same characteristics of innovation and inquisitiveness depicted throughout her work. As its new home, it will be able to honor her legacy by introducing her story through its unique educational, digital platforms, inspiring generations to come.”
On her own, and with leading scientists, engineers, physicists, and psychologists, Schwartz developed effective techniques for the use of the computer in film and animation. During her career, she created programs, special color filters and editing techniques, art and historical analyses, art films, and graphics that could be viewed in 2D or 3D without pixel shifting.