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Print - Elektronischer Einstein (Picture Processing)
  • Elektronischer Einstein (Picture Processing)
    Franke, Herbert W., born 1927
  • Enlarge image

Elektronischer Einstein (Picture Processing)

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Germany (made)

  • Date:

    1972 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Franke, Herbert W., born 1927 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Offset lithographs mounted on board

  • Credit Line:

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

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case 3H, shelf 24

These nine offset lithographs were created from photographs taken of images on a computer screen. The artist, Herbert W. Franke (born Austria, 1927), used an early digital picture processing that was developed by the computer scientists Jürgen van Kranenbrock and Helmut Schenk. Picture processing involves using a specially created computer program to apply a set of processes to an image, such as a photograph. These processes could include analysing, interpreting and manipulating the image, for example. Here the program slowly transforms a scanned picture of Albert Einstein, one stage at a time, into an abstract image. The program was based on the picture processing system used at this time for the analysis of scintigrams, a type of medical imagery that uses radioactive material to show up tissue or organs in the human body.

The images exist as lithographs because there was no output device capable of producing these pictures at the time. Instead, Franke photographed the images as stills on the screen and then produced slides, from which he was able to make a series of lithographs.

Digital picture processing, or image processing as it is sometimes known, is now very common. However, the process itself was only developed in the 1960s. Institutions such as the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Bell Laboratories, both in America, were responsible for developing techniques used in manipulating images, as applied in the fields of medicine and science. By the 1970s, when this image was created, digital image processing was becoming more accessible because of the arrival of cheaper computers and dedicated hardware.

Physical description

Nine colour offset lithographs mounted on board, depicting the step-by-step transformation of a portrait of Albert Einstein into an abstract image.

Place of Origin

Germany (made)


1972 (made)


Franke, Herbert W., born 1927 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Offset lithographs mounted on board


Height: 72.8 cm, Width: 60.6 cm

Descriptive line

Nine colour offset lithographs from photographs of computer-generated images, mounted on board, 'Electronic Einstein', 1972, by Herbert W. Franke.

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

Herzogenrath, Wulf and Nierhoff-Wielk, Barbara, eds. Ex-Machina - Frühe Computergrafik bis 1979. Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2007. ISBN 978-3-422-06689-2. p.355 (cat. 133), ill.

Production Note

Elektronischer Einstein translates as 'Electronic Einstein'.

The computer code, which included the picture processing system, was created by Jürgen van Kranenbrock and Helmut Schenk.

Attribution note: The computer program used to produce these images was developed by Jürgen van Kranenbrock and Helmut Schenk, and was called 'Bildspeicher N'. The program included a picture processing system used in scintigraphy, a type of medical imaging which records a radioactive tracer The picture processing system was used by Siemens in Erlangen for whom Franke worked from 1952 until 1957. In theory, the program could have generated a moving film of the transforming portrait, but this would have been very costly at the time.


Mounting board; Lithographic ink


Offset lithography; Electronic imaging; Photography; Image processing


Prints; Computer Art


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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