A Few Words About Herbert W. Franke (Part 1)

Let's walk through the career, achievements, and art of the computer science dinosaur...

If you have been following my weekly digests, you probably have seen multiple collections from the Herbert W. Franke tribute. I wanted to connect those pieces to Herberts art to understand each artist's purpose, so I started to put together a short recap of his life.

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The result turned out longer than usual, so I split it into two parts.

The first part is a summary of the career, achievements, and artworks of Herbert W. Franke also called The Dinosaur of Computer Art. The second part will be a market analysis of the tribute collections.

Herbert W. Franke photo

Herbert W. Franke. Source: wissenschaft-kunst.de

Who was Herbet W. Franke?

Originally from Vienna, Herbert studied physics, mathematics, chemistry, psychology, and philosophy. He received his doctorate in theoretical physics in 1950 by writing a dissertation about electron optics.

He was a prolific artist, using plenty of machines across time to create art that he immortalized through prints and photographs.

One of his first series was Dance of the Electrons (1959/62). In 1962 Franke produced the image using his analog computer called Demo-Ger瓣t (demonstration set) and a cathode-ray oscillograph.

Analog-Grafik D2 (Dance of the Electrons) top image

Analog-Grafik D2 (Dance of the Electrons) on display at V&A South Kensington

Drakula (1970/71)

The dragon curve is a fractal object. It was first studied by NASA physicists Johnm Heighway, Bruce Banks and William Harter and described by Martin Gardner in his 1967 column Mathematical Games in Scientific American. However, the basic mathematical theory, was not developed until 1970 by mathematician Chandler Davis and computer scientist Donald Knuth. For Franke, the dragon curves were an ideal instrument as a study object of experimental aesthetics, since they could be quantified well in terms of information theory. Dragon curves are formed by sequences of left and right turns according to certain rules.

Taken from MATH GOES ART - A solo show by Herbert W. Franke at Kate Vass Gallerie1.

Drakula 19A-71

Drakula 19A / 71 by Herbert W. Franke - Source: Kate Vass Gallerie

Cellular Automata (since 1992)

Stephen Wolfram came up with the so-called one-dimensional cellular automata, and Herbert used the algorithm to create multiple plots for the Cellular Automata series.

Taken from MATH GOES ART - A solo show by Herbert W. Franke at Kate Vass Gallerie.

This is the same algorithm FxHash founder, and generative artist ciphrd used for the RGB Elementary Cellular Automaton collection.

Cellular Automata #1

Cellular Automata #1 by Herbert W. Franke - Source: Kate Vass Gallerie.

One of Herbert W. Franke's Final Interviews

In June 2022, Charlotte Kent interviewed Herbert for The Brooklyn Rail2. The whole interview is worth a read, as Herbert went deep into details on how he sees art and his life. After reading the interview, the following quote stuck in my head

The point is not to leave new technologies, which are value-neutral, to begin with, to technocrats, commerce, and the military complex alone. Art is also part of our society, and it should deal with the tools of todays society.

He was an early adopter of new technologies. If he had lived during these times, I am sure he would have played around not only with generative coded art on the blockchain but also with custom-made smart contracts. What kind of mechanics would he have come up with it?

Math Art nft

Math Art (1980-1995) - Math Art 95 - No. 97

Herbert Franke generative Art NFT Collection Math Art

A few months before he passed, he minted his own generative art NFT collection, Math Art (1980-1995). The collection was launched on Quantum and curated by Rodolphe K繹dderitzsch and Anika Meier. It was a team effort that also included Herberts wife, Susanne Paech.

It is a 100 piece-collection drawn from his iconic 80s series Math Art where mathematical investigation is translated into visual art, with a stunning variety of forms strikingly reminiscent of Pop Art.

Until now, it has over 350 ETH (+$500k) in secondary volume, and the floor is 15 ETH (+$20k).

math art nft

Math Art (1980-1995) - Math Art 95 - No. 83

Franke was also an award-winning writer

Besides being an artist and scientist, he was also an award-winning science fiction author. He won twice the Deutscher Science Fiction Preis, one of the most prestigious German science fiction literature awards.

"HERBERT W. FRANKE" BOOKS: The Orchard Cage / The Mind Net by  Herbert W. (translated by

The Orchid Cage (1961) and The Mind Net (1961) are two science fiction books by Herbert W. Franke.

Herbert passed away this year at 95 years of age. He was active on Twitter (with the support of his wife) and was very excited to see the developments in the modern computer art world

Herbert W. Franke @HerbertWFranke

Never though it might be possible to find so many people interested in this field! When I started in the 50s, we were a few enthusiasts spread over the world, most of them I want to call friends. Obviously, together we achieved something, here my recognition for those pioneers.

1:40 PM Mar 9, 2022


Over the past month, about 80 of the most renowned generative artists, photographers, poets, and virtual world builders working today were invited by art meets science Foundation Herbert W. Franke3 to honor his life and work - an event organized by writer and curator Anika Meier.

list of generative artists

Tribute to Herbert W. Franke

Tomorrow, Ill share a review of all the fantastic artworks created for this occasion, in addition to the market impact across the different blockchains. Keep in mind, the artists are donating a percentage of the proceeds to the following causes:

A percentage of the proceeds from the sales will be donated by each artist.The artists donations will be used by the art meets science Foundation Herbert W. Franke for two earmarked projects. Herbert W. Frankes archive has been housed at the Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (ZKM Karlsruhe) since 2017. 20,000 EUR will be donated to the ZKM so that more than 1,800 manuscripts by Franke can be digitized and made accessible to the public. Together with the RTGERS Foundation, the Foundation Herbert W. Franke will also use the donations to support young people in Namibia to learn computer science and programming.

See you tomorrow,

- Kaloh

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MATH GOES ART - A solo show by Herbert W. Franke at Kate Vass Gallerie - https://www.katevassgalerie.com/math-art-by-herbert-w-franke


Herbert W. Franke with Charlotte Kent - https://brooklynrail.org/2022/06/art/Herbert-Franke-with-Charlotte-Kent


Tribute to Herbert W. Franke - https://www.tribute-hwf.com/

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