Desmond Paul Henry1921 - 2004

British Pioneer of Computer Art

A collection of rare archive items

Desmond Paul Henry Archive

The machine in action

"The computer, which hums a drowsy dirge to itself while working, is only a fraction of the size of the giant Atlas computer at the University (of Manchester). The Ideograph analogue computer is a mere two feet square and consists of a host of dials, springs, coils, gears, small electric motors and little flashing lights. Dr. Henry keeps the computer in front of his desk in the bay window of his book-lined study. The computer draws with three individually suspended spring-loaded ball-point pens filled with coloured inks which it wields in its shiny chrome hand. The paper or card on which the drawing is done is attached to an easel which can move in a horizontal plane at the same time as the computer's hand is drawing on it."

(The Manchester Guardian, 1962)


Desmond Paul Henry, Machine 3

Drawing Machine Number3

Four newspaper articles featuring the artist.

Below is a collection of four press cuttings taken from various British newspapers.
Each example opens in Lightbox for you to view.

Rare Interview with Desmond Paul Henry

In the last few years before Desmond Paul Henry passed away in 2004 Elaine O'hanrahan interviewed the artist. Featured below are a selection of sound files capturing that day. Hear him talk about his life, passions and his art.

British Computer Art Pioneer

Exhibitions: Desmond Paul Henry (1921-2004)

2012 (Oct)

blincdigital, Conwy, North Wales. Six Desmond Paul Henry originals were exhibited, alongside a selection of Henry images which were also screened. Henry’s links with his former Manchester University colleague, Alan Turing, were also highlighted at the exhibition.

2011 (Feb - May)

Desmond Paul Henry: Manchester Pioneer of Computer Art, MOSI, Manchester, UK. This SOLO exhibition was held at the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester and is referenced by the New York Times and the BBC.

2011 (Jan)

Drawing with Code, DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum Lincoln, MA, USA. Henry originals from the Anne and Michael Spalter Collection were included in the exhibition:. This exhibition provided a window into the past with some of the best examples of fruitful collaboration between technology and art.

2010 (March - April)

Atrocity Exhibition, Feinkost Gallery, Berlin,(6/3/2010 to 20/04/2010). Two Henry originals were requested by gallery curator Aaron Moulton for inclusion in this exhibition in homage to J. G. Ballard.

2010 (Feb)

Kinetica Art Fair, University of Westminster, London. Four Henry originals were exhibited in the Cybernetic Serendipity feature section of this exhibition. Daughter Elaine O'Hanrahan gave a talk on her father's work as an early British Computer Art pioneer.

2009 - 2010 (Feb - June)

Digital Pioneers, Senior Curator Doug Dodds kindly included at very short notice a D.P. Henry picture from the V & A collections archive.

1976 (Dec)

North West Artists, Manchester Evening News premises. Henry exhibited drawings produced by Drawing Machine Three.

1969 (Aug)

Cybernetic Serendipity on tour in the U.S.A. Venues included the Corcoran Gallery, Washington D.C and the Exploratorium, San Francisco. Henry’s Drawing Machine Two went on tour with this exhibition from which it returned completely damaged circa 1972.

1968 (Aug - Oct)

Cybernetic Serendipity, I.C.A, London. Drawing Machine Two together with its machine-generated images were exhibited at this major Computer Art show of the 1960’s.

1965 (July)

Frape Memorial Exhibition, Salford Art gallery. Henry exhibited a selection of pictures, together with other artists including L.S. Lowry, in memory of Mr. A. Frape, the former director of Salford Art Gallery who died in Nov. 1963.

1965 (Feb)

A performance of creative dance based around the stimuli of Henry’s ‘computer-drawn’ pictures was held at the Mather College, Manchester.

1964 (Oct)

One-man show of machine-produced drawings at Central Library, Manchester.

1962 (Oct)

Crumpsall Library: one-man exhibition of machine-drawings.

1962 (Sept)

Machine Drawings, Salford Art Gallery. This solo exhibition was claimed by Henry to be ‘the world’s first one-machine show’.

1962 (Sept)

Ideographs, The Reid Gallery, London’s West End. This exhibition was Henry’s one-man prize-show for winning the London Opportunity competition. Here Henry exhibited watercolours, graphics on photo-paper and for the first time, “machine-drawings”.

1961 (July-Aug)

London Opportunity, Salford Art Gallery. This was a local art competition for artists living within a 50 mile radius of Salford. Henry became the winner of this art competition with a picture which used, as its first stage for inspiration, effects produced using Henry’s unique photochemical technique. One of the judges for the prize was artist L.S. Lowry, who visited Henry’s home and on seeing his first drawing machine suggested he include ‘machine-drawings’ in his competition prize, a one-man show in London..

1955 (Sept)

Artists with North Country Associations, Manchester City Art Gallery. Here Henry exhibited an ink drawing.


Staff art shows, Manchester University. Pictures exhibited while a lecturer and reader in Philosophy.


Student art shows, Leeds University. Drawings exhibited while a student.

Desmond Paul Henry in the Media


Henry at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London: ‘Computer Art: technology and terminology’ [online] Available at: (Accessed: 28/02/2013)

Henry at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London: ‘V&A Search the Collections’ [online] Available at: (Accessed: 28/02/2013)


blincdigital, [exh.] Conwy (Nov. 2012)

Henry cited in: Beck, Paul (2012) Make Amazing Spiral Art, Sterling Innovation, New York, p.19 (Description and image of Henry’s Drawing Machine One).

Henry illustration in: Breward C. and Wood G.( eds.) (2012) British Design from 1948: Innovation in the Modern Age. London: V&A, p.362 (Full-page Henry illustration).


O'Hanrahan, Elaine ( Sept. 2011) ‘Desmond Paul Henry: Computer Art's 'missing link'’, (academic paper) REWIRE, the Fourth International Conference on Media Histories, Science and Technology held at Liverpool John Moore's University Art and Design Academy.

Fraguas, Antonio ‘Y la máquina empuñó el pincel,’  El Pais  (07/03/2011)

Grant, KatieManchester exhibition to commemorate work of ‘Huddersfield’s Picasso’ Desmond Paul Henry’, Huddersfield Examiner (28/02/2011)

Rawsthorn, Alice, ‘When Desmond Paul Henry Traded His Pen for a Machine’ International Herald Tribune/New York Times p.10 (27/02/2011)

Alice Rawsthorn’s strapline reads: “British teacher’s tinkering with computers in ‘60s heralded digital art”.

Henry cited in: Saville, Peter ‘Computer Art Pioneer’, Front Row BBC RADIO 4 (23/02/2011)

Walters, Sarah, ‘ Machine Artist is Finally Honoured’, Metro p.45 (15/02/2011)

Walters, Sarah, ‘Celebrating the City’s Mechanical Picasso’, in ‘City Life Arts’, The Manchester Evening News, p.14 (11/02/2011)

O’Hanrahan, Elaine; O’Hanrahan, Claire (eds.)(Feb. 2011) Desmond Paul Henry: Manchester Pioneer of Computer Art [Exh.Cat.] MOSI. Contributors: Balint Bolygo, Professor Paul Brown, Professor Jagjit Chuhan, Douglas Dodds, Michael Spalter, Dr. Jack Tait, Elaine O’Hanrahan


Henry cited in: Kinetica Art Fair [Exh. Cat.], Kinetica Museum (Feb.2010) p.48 (‘Kinetic Masters’ feature section). Daughter Elaine O’Hanrahan presented a talk on Henry’s career as a Computer Art pioneer.

Henry illustration in: Gemtronic (August 2010) Swarovsky Gems, p.11

Henry cited in: Kinetica Art Fair [Exh. Cat.], Kinetica Museum (Feb.2010) p.48 (‘Kinetic Masters’ feature section)

2007 was created in 2007 by Aly Sebastien of Redinko

O’Hanrahan, Elaine, (2007) ‘Desmond Paul Henry on Wikipedia


Henry cited in: Levy, David (2006) Robots Unlimited-Life in a Virtual Age, A.K.Peters, Wellesley, U.S.A, pp. 178-180.

O’Hanrahan, Elaine,(2005)Drawing Machines’: The Machine Produced Drawings of Dr. D.P. Henry in Relation to Conceptual and Technological Developments in Machine-Generated Art (UK 1960-68) (MPhil thesis, unpublished; John Moores University, Liverpool):


O’Hanrahan, Elaine (2004), ‘Desmond Paul Henry: How World War Two changed one man’s life for the better’, WW2 People’s War,BBC [online]


Henry cited in: Roberts, Emma (2001) ‘Intercultural Drawing Practice: the Art School Response’ in Chuhan, Jagjit (ed.) Responses: intercultural drawing practice, CAIR, LJMU, pp. 40-47.


Henry, D.P (1991) Medieval Mereology, B.R. Grüner Publishing Company.


Henry cited in: Mannings, David (1990), ‘Computer Art’. In  David Crystal (ed.) (1990), The Cambridge Encyclopaedia,Cambridge University press, Cambridge, p.289. Here Henry is accorded pioneer status.


Henry, D.P (1984) That Most Subtle Question (Quaestio Subtilissima): The Metaphysical Bearing of Medieval and Contemporary Linguistic Disciplines, Manchester University Press.


Henry, D.P (1977) Teaching and Study companion for use with ‘Philosophy in the Middle Ages’. Hyman and Walsh, Hackett.publications.


Henry, D.P (1974) Commentary on ‘De Grammatico’: The Historical-Logical Dimensions of a Dialogue of St. Anselm’s, Reidel.


Henry, D.P (1972) Medieval Logic and Metaphysics: A Modern Introduction, Hutchinson University Library.


Henry (1969) ’The End or the Beginning?’Solem, (Manchester Students’ Union magazine), pp. 25-27.
Henry illustration in: Databank (summer 1969), (Leasco House Magazine), Ted Hagan, Holland, p.2: Henry picture ‘Conversation’, 1962.


Henry (1968) ‘The Henry Drawing Computer’, Cybernetic Serendipity [Exh. Cat.], Studio International, London, p.50.


Henry, D.P (1967) The Logic of St. Anselm , The Clarendon Press, Oxford. (Reprinted by Gregg Revivals, Aldershot)


Henry (1964) ‘Art and Technology’, Bulletin of The Philosophy of Science Group, Newman Association, no.53.

‘Dr. Henry and his Painting Machine’ The Independent (03/11/64)

Henry, D.P (1964) The ‘De Grammatico’ of St. Anselm: The Theory of Paronymy, Notre Dame University Press.


Henry was interviewed by George Will (Sept. 1963) to be featured in the prestigious American LIFE magazine. The article was scrapped following the assassination of U.S President J. F. Kennedy.


‘Exhibition of Machine-Drawn Pictures’ The Easel (Autumn 1962) p.16-17

‘Computer Does Drawings- Thousands of Lines in each’ The Manchester Guardian (17/09/62)

Frenchman, Michael, ‘The Computer that Draws and Paints’ Time and Tide (13-20/09/62)

The BBC’s first programme in the “North at Six” series (Sept. 1962). Henry was interviewed and demonstrated his first drawing-machine.

Newton, Eric, ‘Ideographs at the Reid Gallery’ The Manchester Guardian (31/08/62).

‘Salford Fashions’ The Daily Telegraph (30/08/62)

‘Pictures by Robot Artist- enter Picasso of Machine Age’ The Manchester Evening News (30/08/62)

‘Doodling at 12 guineas a time’ The Daily Herald (30/08/62)

‘A Robot Draws the Doctor’s Pictures’ The Evening Herald (30/08/62)

Ideographs, [Exh. Cat.] The Reid Gallery, London (Aug-Sept 1962)


Partington, Dave, ‘The Raw Materials of Art’ The Independent (20/10/61)

‘A Philosopher beats 1,000 in art contest’ The Universe, (28/07/1961)

‘A Huddersfield Artist’s Success’The Yorkshire Post (26/07/1961)

‘Lecturer Wins One-Man Show Art Prize’ The Daily Telegraph (07/07/1961)

‘Triumph for a Doodler; London Showing as Art Prize’ The Manchester Guardian (July 1961)

Best of 1,000 pictures’ Manchester Evening News (July 1961)


Artists with a North Country Association, [Exh. Cat.] Manchester City Art Gallery (summer 1955)


‘400 students attend art festival in Leeds’ The Yorkshire Post (01/01/1949)
“ Noteworthy is a massive head by D.P. Henry, of Leeds University”


Oliver, W.T ‘Leeds University Art Exhibition: High-spirited works’ The Yorkshire Post (12/05/1948)

“D.P.Henry’s many exhibits show him to be prolific in experiment…….There is evidence of an alert and subtle mind in his best work.’ (Oliver, 1948)


‘University Art: virile exhibition in Leeds’ The Yorkshire Post (06/05/1947)
“But the outstanding contributions are undoubtedly the powerful allegory ‘Megapolitan Golgotha’ and other drawings by Desmond Paul Henry”.