Warhead I

Nancy Burson (American, born 1948)

Gelatin silver print
19.3 × 19.2 cm (7 5/8 × 7 9/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Joyce and Robert Menschel Gift, 1993
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© Nancy Burson
  • Description

    Burson was among the first artists to apply digital technology to the genre of photographic portraiture. In the late 1970s she began working with computer scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop software that could be used to “age” a human face. By the early 1980s she was digitally blending the faces of groups of individuals to produce composite portraits of stock types such as businessmen, movie stars, and assassins. This composite was created using images of five world leaders, each represented proportionally by the number of nuclear warheads deployable by the nation they led: Ronald Reagan (55%), Leonid Brezhnev (45%), Margaret Thatcher (less than 1%), François Mitterand (less than 1%), and Deng Xiaoping (less than 1%).

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscribed in black ink on the print recto, BE: "'Warhead I' (c) copyright 1982 Nancy Burson with R.C. & D.K. 6/15"

  • Provenance

    Jayne H. Baum Gallery

  • Notes

    No. 6 in an edition of 15. Image is a computer generated composite including Ronald Reagen (55%), Leonid Brezhnev (45%), Margaret Thatcher (less than 1%), Francois Mitterand (less than 1%) and Deng (less than 1%). The percentage of the individual depicted is based on the number of nuclear warheads deployable by the country over which they govern.