Pendulum Autographs: Drawing with Harmonic Motion – Art Exhibit at Matthews-Fuller Library

Don Fitzpatrick – Artist Statement

Harmonogram 1This exhibit features drawings created on a harmonograph drawing machine. A harmonograph is an interactive kinetic mechanism that employs pendulums to make geometric images. The images on display were created using a wide variety of inks and paper. The drawings are expressions of the frequencies at which the pendulums move. The frequencies can be altered by raising or lowering the weights on the pendulums, and they can be equated to sound frequencies – hence the name ‘harmonograph’. The first machine was created in the 1840’s as a scientific instrument and became popular as parlor entertainment as the century progressed.¹

Harmonogram 2The drawings in this exhibit were produced using two different machines – a three pendulum rotary harmonograph, and a two pendulum lateral harmonograph. I designed and constructed the three pendulum version a few years ago and quickly become engrossed by the science behind the motion and images it creates. The only issue is the significant amount of space the machine requires to operate.  So I decided to build the two pendulum lateral version a few months ago and have found that it is capable of producing images that are not possible with the larger three pendulum machine.

Video of the harmonograph in action:

This exhibit will be on display through October 2016.


  1. Chowdry, Anita. “The Iron Genie” 9 Jan. 2014. 28 Jul. 2016.
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