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A History of Digital Art

The introduction of the computer into the creative process is perhaps one of the most significant cultural developments of the last century. The first practitioners to use computers to produce images were scientists and mathematicians, but artists and designers soon followed.  These digital pioneers worked directly with computer hardware and software to produce graphic images unlike anything that had gone before. This image gallery examines the emergence of computer art and explores the connections with contemporary digital practices.

The V&A holds the UK’s national collection of early digital art.  Thanks to generous gifts from the American historian Patric Prince, the Computer Arts Society and many others, the collection now consists of more than 1,000 artworks. The V&A’s holdings range from early experiments with analogue computers and mechanical devices to examples of contemporary software-based practices that produce digital prints and computer-generated drawings. A selection of these works were exhibited in Digital Pioneers, a display at the V&A Museum from 1 December 2009 to 23 March 2010.  The exhibition research and digitization of the artworks was funded by a grant from the AHRC.   

This picture gallery takes a chronological approach, starting with some of the earliest examples of computer-generated art created in the early 1960s and closing with recent artworks that utilise digital technologies.  The images demonstrate the multitude of output methods that artists utilised, from photographs and plotter drawings to screen-based works.  They also illustrate different phases in the development of digital imagery, including the initiation of art and science collaborations, the emergence of artists as programmers, and the beginnings of the paint program era.

Doug Dodds and Melanie Lenz, Victoria & Albert Museum

  • Image of Herbert W. Franke
    Herbert W. Franke about Herbert W. Franke
  • Image of Desmond Paul Henry
    Desmond Paul Henry about Desmond Paul Henry
  • Image of A. Michael Noll
    A. Michael Noll about A. Michael Noll
  • Image of Frieder Nake
    Frieder Nake about Frieder Nake
  • Image of Vera Molnar
    Vera Molnar about Vera Molnar
  • Image of Manfred Mohr
    Manfred Mohr about Manfred Mohr
  • Image of Colette and Jeff Bangert
    Colette and Jeff Bangert about Colette and Jeff Bangert
  • Image of Barbara Nessim
    Barbara Nessim about Barbara Nessim
  • Image of Roman Verostko
    Roman Verostko about Roman Verostko
  • Image of Paul Brown
    Paul Brown about Paul Brown
  • Image of Mark Wilson
    Mark Wilson about Mark Wilson
  • Image of Casey Reas
    Casey Reas about Casey Reas