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Portrait of Catherine Sauvage

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    France (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1968 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Jaume Estapà (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Computer print-out

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Computer Arts Society, supported by System Simulation Ltd, London

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case CAS, shelf 1

This portrait of the French singer Catherine Sauvage (1922-1998) is composed entirely of the computer characters M, O and *. Created in 1968 by artist Jaume Estapa, it is an early example of ASCII art, a term used to refer to text based art. ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange, which was a character coding created to enable the representation of text in computers. Early computer printers were not able to output graphic images and so characters were used instead of graphic marks.

Traditionally ASCII art is formed from any number of printable characters out of a total of 95 possibles. In this image, Estapa has employed only a small number of symbols and has overprinted to define areas of dark or shade. The alternate light grey stripes of the background were a characteristic of early computer printing paper. They were designed to make it easier to follow lines when reading printed code or wording.

Works such as this portrait were produced using an early form of impact printer, such as a daisy wheel printer. The daisy wheel printer housed a central disc off of which extended arms or 'petals' that contained raised characters. The printer would rotate to the correct character, which would then be struck by a hammer and forced onto the printer ribbon beneath, leaving a printed impression on the paper. Daisy wheel printers were noisy and could only print around 10 to 75 characters per second. By the 1980s they had been replaced by inkjet and laser printers, which were much cheaper and faster.

Physical description

Computer-generated ASCII portrait of Catherine Sauvage composed entirely of the characters M, O and *. Printed on lightly striped computer paper and mounted on board.

Place of Origin

France (probably, made)


1968 (made)


Jaume Estapà (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Computer print-out

Marks and inscriptions

'Jaume Estapa 68'
Artist's name and date in computerised text in lower right.


Height: 30.4 cm, Width: 53.6 cm

Descriptive line

Impact print mounted on board, 'Portrait of Catherine Sauvage', byJaume Estapà, 1968.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Catalogue of Creative Computers exhibition, Gordon Maynard Gallery, Welwyn Garden City, Herts, June 2nd - June 24th, 1972.

Production Note

Jaume Estapa is also known as Jaime Estapa. Jaume is the Catalan version of James and Jaime is the Spanish version. The different names arose because in 1941, when Estapa was born in Barcelona, the Spanish government (under Francisco Franco) did not allow first names in Catalan. The artist was therefore baptised under the first name of 'Jaime', but because he considered himself a Catalan, even when he moved to France, he signed his works with his Catalan first name 'Jaume', by which his friends and family also knew him.


Printing-out paper; Printing ink


Printing; Computerized composition; Computer-generated; Impact printing


Prints; Computer Art


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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