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Encyclopedia > Oskar Fischinger

Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967) was an abstract animator, filmmaker, and painter. He made over 50 short films, and painted c. 900 canvases which are in museums, galleries and collections worldwide. Among his film works is Motion Painting No. 1 (1947), which is part of the United States National Film Registry. 1900 (MCM) was an exceptional common year starting on Monday. ... 1967 (MCMLXVII) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar (the link is to a full 1967 calendar). ... Black square by Kazimir Malevich Abstract art is now generally understood to mean art that does not depict objects in the natural world, but instead uses shapes and colors in a non-representational or subjective way. ... 12 frames per second is the typical rate for an animated cartoon. ... Film refers to the celluloid media on which movies are printed. ... The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ... Motion Painting No. ... 1947 (MCMXLVII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (the link is to a full 1947 calendar). ... The National Film Registry is the registry of films selected by the United States National Film Preservation Board for preservation in the Library of Congress. ...



Early life

Born Wilhelm Oskar Fischinger in 1900 in the German town of Gelnhausen, he was the fourth of six children. His father ran a drugstore while his mother's family owned a combination brewery, tavern, and bowling alley. Also interested in music, he apprenticed at an organ-building firm until the owners were drafted into the war. The next year he worked as a draftsman in an architect's office, until he himself was called to duty. He was rejected as being unhealthy, and the Fischinger family moved to west Frankfurt. There Fischinger attended a trade school and worked as an apprentice at a factory, eventually obtaining an engineer's diploma. Nickname: Barbarossa town Motto: Official website: www. ... Skyline of Frankfurt at night is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany. ...

Early career

In Frankfurt he met the theater critic Bernhard Diebold, who in 1921 introduced Fischinger to the work and personage of Walther Ruttmann, a pioneer in abstract film. Inspired by Ruttmann's work, Fischinger began experimenting with colored liquids and three-dimensional modeling materials such as wax and clay. He conceptualized a "Wax Machine", which synchronized a vertical slicer with a movie camera's shutter, enabling the efficient imaging of progressive cross-sections through a length of molded material. Fischinger wrote to Ruttmann about his machine, who expressed interest. Moving to Munich, Fischinger sold a wax slicing machine to Ruttmann and began working on the first production model. Upon delivery, Ruttmann found that hot film lights often melted the wax to a serious degree. Ruttmann gave up, though during this time Fischinger shot many abstract tests of his own using the machine (some of these are distributed today under the assigned title Wax Experiments). 1921 (MCMXXI) was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ... Munich (German: München, (pronounced listen) is the capital of the German Federal State of Bavaria. ...

In 1924 Fischinger was hired by American entrepreneur Louis Seel to produce satirical cartoons that tended toward mature audiences. He also made abstract films and tests of his own, trying new and different techniques, including the use of multiple projectors. 1924 (MCMXXIV) was a leap year starting on Tuesday (link will take you to calendar). ...

Facing financial difficulties, Fischinger borrowed from his family, and then his landlady. Finally, in an effort to escape bill collectors, Fischinger decided to surreptitiously depart Munich for Berlin in June 1927. Taking only his essential equipment, he walked 350 miles through the countryside, shooting single frames that became a film in itself: "Walking from Munich to Berlin." For other uses, see Berlin (disambiguation). ... 1927 (MCMXXVII) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will take you to calendar). ...


Arriving in Berlin, Fischinger borrowed some money from a relative and set up a studio on Friedrichstrasse. He soon was doing the special effects for various films, which led to his being called "the Wizard of Friedrichstrasse." The Friedrichstraße (pronounced fRi-dRIc-StRas-s@ as written in SAMPA form) (Frederick Street) is a major shopping street in (east) central Berlin. ...

In 1928 he was hired to work on Fritz Lang's space epic Frau im Mond, which provided him a steady salary for a time. On his own time, he experimented with charcoal-on-paper animation. He produced a series of abstract Studies that were synchronized to popular music. They were well-received at art theaters and his Studie Nr. 5 screened at the 1927 "Congress for Colour-Music Research" to critical acclaim. The Studies were screened throughout Europe and America as shorts before first run features. 1928 (MCMXXVIII) was a leap year starting on Sunday (link will take you to calendar). ... Fritz Lang Friedrich Anton Christian Lang (December 5, 1890 - August 2, 1976) was an Austrian film director, screenwriter and occasional film producer, one of the best known emigrés from Germanys school of expressionism. ... Frau im Mond is a science fiction movie released in 1929, and is often considered to be one of the first serious science fiction films. ... 1927 (MCMXXVII) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will take you to calendar). ...

As the Nazis rose to greater power in the 1930s, the abstract film and art communities and distribution possibilities quickly disappeared as the Nazis instituted their policies against what they termed Degenerate Art. Fischinger continued to make films secretly, and also found work producing commercials and advertisements, among them Muratti Greift Ein (Muratti Gets in the Act), and Kreise (Circles). The color Muratti cigarette commercial was a sensation, screening all over Europe. At this time Fischinger also married his first cousin Elfriede. Though Fischinger at times ran afoul of the Nazi authorities, he nevertheless managed to secretly complete his abstract work Komposition in Blau in 1935. It was well-received critically, though no German distributor dared to secure the rights to it. National Socialism redirects here. ... 1935 (MCMXXXV) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will take you to calendar). ...

At this time an agent from MGM had screened a print of Komposition in Blau and Muratti in a small art theatre in Hollywood, and Ernst Lubitsch was impressed by the films and the audience's enthusiastic response to the shorts. A Paramount Pictures agent telephoned Fischinger, asking if he was willing to work in America, and Fischinger promptly agreed. MGM logo Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or MGM, is a large media company, involved primarily in the production and distribution of cinema and television programs. ... Ernst Lubitsch (January 28, 1892 – November 30, 1947), was a German-born Jewish film director. ... The Paramount Pictures logo used since 2003. ...


Upon arriving in Hollywood in February 1936, Fischinger was given an office, German-speaking secretaries, an English tutor, and a weekly salary of $250. He and Elfriede socialized with the emigré community, but felt out of place among the elites. ... 1936 (MCMXXXVI) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will take you to calendar). ...

(section on Allegretto to come)

All Fischinger's filmmaking attempts in America suffered difficulties. He composed An Optical Poem to Liszt's "Second Hungarian Rhapsody" for MGM, but received no profits due to studio bookkeeping systems. He designed the Bach "Tocatta and Fugue" sequence for Disney's Fantasia, but quit without credit because all his designs were simplified and altered to be more representational. The Guggenheim Foundation required him to synchronize a film with a Sousa march in order to demonstrate loyalty to America, and then insisted that he make a film to Bach's "Brandenburg Concert No. 3" even though he wanted to make a film without sound in order to affirm the integrity of his non-objective imagery -- and secretly did compose the silent masterpiece Radio Dynamics which breathes slow pulsating rhythms and astonishing single-frame flickers of painterly images.

Frustrated in his filmmaking, Fischinger turned increasingly to oil painting as a creative outlet. Although the Guggenheim Foundation specifically required a cel animation film, Fischinger made his Bach film as a documentation of the act of painting, taking a single frame each time he made a brush stroke -- and the multi-layered style merely parallels the structure of the Bach music without any tight synchronization. Although he never again received funding for a film, the breathtaking Motion Painting No. 1 won the Grand Prix at the Brussels International Experimental Film Competition 1949. Three of Fischinger's films also made the 1984 Olympiad of Animation's list of the world's greatest films. (latter two paragraphs only are from the Fischinger biography by William Moritz on the Fischinger Archive website.


In 1950 Fischinger invented the Lumigraph, a type of color organ. The machine played colored lights, and was performed accompanying various music. Two people were required to operate the Lumigraph. Fischinger did several performance in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco in the early 1950's, performing various classical pieces, and many were impressed by the machine's spectacular images. Fischinger hoped to make the Lumigraph a commercial product, widely available for anyone. After Fischinger's death, his widow Elfriede did performances with the Lumigraph in Europe and the US, and his son Conrad even built two more machines in different sizes. In 1964 the Lumigraph was used in the science fiction film Time Travelers, in which it became a 'love machine' (this was not Fischinger's intent, this was the decision of those producers). Today one of the instruments is displayed at Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt, and is still played occasionally. Film and video documentation of Elfriede's color organ performances are at the Center for Visual Music in Los Angeles, CA. The term color organ refers to a tradition of mechanical (18th century), then electromechanical devices built to represent sound or to accompany music, in a visual medium — by any number of means. ... Classical music is a broad, somewhat imprecise term, referring to music produced in, or rooted in the traditions of, European art, ecclesiastical and concert music, encompassing a broad period from roughly 1000 to the present day. ... Science fiction is a form of speculative fiction principally dealing with the impact of imagined science and technology, or both, upon society and persons as individuals. ... The Time Travelers is a 1964 movie starring Preston Foster, Philip Carey, Merry Anders and Steve Franken, as well as John Hoyt. ... Skyline of Frankfurt at night is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany. ...

Further reading

  • William Moritz, Optical Poetry: The Life and Work of Oskar Fischinger, Indiana University Press, 2004. ISBN 0253216419

External links

  • The Fischinger Archive Site maintained by the Oskar Fischinger Archive, run by the Fischinger Trust.
  • Center for Visual Music includes gallery of Fischinger animation drawings; reference material in online library; online store offering Fischinger material

  Results from FactBites:
Oskar Fischinger - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1176 words)
Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967) was an abstract animator, filmmaker, and painter.
Born Wilhelm Oskar Fischinger in 1900 in the German town of Gelnhausen, he was the fourth of six children.
Fischinger did several performance in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco in the early 1950's, performing various classical pieces, and many were impressed by the machine's spectacular images.
  More results at FactBites »



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