Harold Cohen (artist)

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Harold Cohen (1 May 1928 – 27 April 2016)[1] was a British-born artist who was noted as the creator of AARON, a computer program designed to produce art autonomously. His work in the intersection of computer artificial intelligence and art attracted a great deal of attention, leading to exhibitions at many museums, including the Tate Gallery in London, and acquisitions by many others.[2]

Early life[edit]

Cohen was born in London, the son of Polish-Russian parents, and was educated there at the Slade School of Fine Art.[3]


Cohen went to the United States as a visiting lecturer at the University of California, San Diego in 1968, but he was given the rank of professor and stayed on for nearly three decades, part of the time as chairman of the Visual Arts Department. In addition, he served as director of the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts at University of California, San Diego from 1992 to 1998.

After his retirement from UCSD,[when?] he continued to work on AARON and produce new artwork in his studio in Encinitas, California.

In 2014, Cohen received the ACM SIGGRAPH Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement award.[4]

Early in 2016 Cohen start a new project with AARON called Fingerpainting for the 21st Century. The artist utilised a touch screen to colour and finish artworks. Before AARON's images would be outputted in physical form before Cohen made alterations.[5]

Personal life[edit]

His partner was the prominent Japanese poet Hiromi Itō.


Cohen's work on AARON began in 1968 at the University of California, San Diego.[6] He initially wrote AARON in the C programming language but eventually converted to Lisp, citing that C was "too inflexible, too inexpressive, to deal with something as conceptually complex as color."[7]


  1. ^ Obituary tribute Harold Cohen
  2. ^ Profile on webpage about AARON
  3. ^ "Harold Cohen, artist – obituary". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 12 May 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Xbt8lzWxIQ
  5. ^ http://www.aaronshome.com/aaron/aaron/publications/8Feb2016Fingerpainting-for-the-21st-Century-with-Figures.pdf
  6. ^ Cohen, Harold. "Toward Diaper-Free Autonomy". aaronshome.com. Archived from the original on 1 July 2015. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  7. ^ Cohen, Harold. ""A Sorcerer's Apprentice" Talk at the Tate Modern". aaronshome.com. Archived from the original on 1 July 2015. Retrieved 29 June 2015.

External links[edit]