Oskar Fischinger 

(1900-1967) was a German abstract animator, filmmaker, and painter. He made over 50 short animated films, and painted c. 800 canvases, many of which are in museums, galleries and collections worldwide.

© Center for Visual Music


Oskar Fischinger originally chose music as a career, studying violin and organ building (for mathematical harmonic theory) before 1914. Too young and unhealthy for war duty, he was forced to learn architectural drafting and tool design. At the beginning of April 1921, he was thrilled by the first performance of Walther Ruttmann's Light-Play Opus No.1 (a color abstract film with a live musical score) and vowed to devote himself to absolute cinema, which could best combine his skills at music and graphic art.


His first films of the early 1920s are among his most radical, perhaps because he felt challenged to create something quite different from the romantic choreography of small figures in the films of Ruttmann or the static development of graphic intricacies in the work of Viking Eggeling. Fischinger was also influenced by Tibetan Buddhism toward meditative mandala structures. (...)


In each of the Studies he set himself a different visual problem to solve: in Study No. 6 a flexible aerodynamic movement that resolves into icons suggesting the eye as mandala or the splitting of matter in an Einsteinian relativity; in Study No. 7 a deep-space perspective of hard-edged figures contrasted with a flat surface where sensuous art-nouveau shapes metamorphose; in Study No. 8 an orchestral multiplicity and density of figures, etc. (...)


He secretly produced a second color film, Composition in Blue, using small geometrical models. Fischinger exhibited Composition in Blue at foreign festivals without a proper permit, and it won the King's prize at the Brussels World Fair in October 1935, which placed Fischinger in a dangerous position. Fortunately Paramount rushed him to Hollywood in February 1936, but they did not allow him to continue to work in color once he was there. With a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation he was later able to buy back from Paramount his short film Allegretto, which, printed in color, stands as one of the most perfect pieces of visual music: the layers of cels allowed Fischinger to develop rhythms, harmonies and counterpoints of forms, while the colors change from frame to frame to create lush hues on divisionist principles. (...)


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.

(Dr. William Moritz)


Source: The Fischinger Trust and Archive



Oskar Fischinger, 1st generation, berlin


Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967): Experiments in Cinematic Abstraction (2012) edited by Cindy Keefer and Jaap Guldemond. This new monograph explores the position of Oskar Fischinger's work within the international avant-garde. The book examines his animation and painting, his use of music, his experiences in Hollywood, the Lumigraph, visual music theories, and his influence on today's filmmakers, artists and animators. The book also contains previously unpublished documents including texts by Oskar Fischinger himself, and unshot animation drawings. Essays compiled and commissioned by editor Cindy Keefer include new research and texts by Jean-Michel Bouhours, Jeanpaul Goergen, Ilene Susan Fort, James Tobias, Cindy Keefer, Richard Brown, Paul Hertz, Joerg Jewanski, and more. (Center for Visual Music)

Optical Poetry (2004) by Dr. William Moritz is the long-awaited, definitive biography of Oskar Fischinger. The result of over 30 years of research on this visionary abstract filmmaker and painter. In addition to Moritz's comprehensive biography, it includes numerous photographs in colour and black and white (many never before published), statements by Oskar Fischinger about his films, a newly created extensive filmography, and a selected bibliography. (John Libbey Publishing)

Sons et Lumières (2004) – A History of Sound in the Art of the 20th Century (in French) by Marcella Lista and Sophie Duplaix published by the Centre Pompidou for the excellent Paris exhibition in September 2004 until January 2005.

Curated by the Pompidou’s Sophie Duplaix with the Louvre’s Marcella Lista, the show required a good three or four hours to absorb, with its bombardment of sensory and intellectual input, including painting, sound sculpture, sound/light automata, film and video, and room-size installations. (Frieze Magazine)



Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen (1994) by French critic and composer Michel Chion reassesses audiovisual media since the revolutionary 1927 debut of recorded sound in cinema, shedding crucial light on the mutual relationship between sound and image in audiovisual perception. (Colombia University Press)

Len Lye: A biography (2001) by Roger Horrock tells for the first time the story of an extraordinary New Zealander, a brilliant artist with an international career who never lost the informality, the energy, the independence of spirit of his South Pacific origins. Len Lye began as an unsettled working-class kid with limited prospects and became a leading modernist artist in London and New York. Roger Horrocks's exhaustive study of Lye has taken many years and is based on interviews with many of those close to the artist as well as on voluminous documentary sources. (Govett-Brewster Art Gallery)

Art in Cinema – Documents Toward a History of the Film Society (2006) by Scott MacDonald provides extensive and fascinating documentation of one of the most important film societies in American history. Art in Cinema presents complete programs presented by the legendary society; dozens of previously unavailable letters between Stauffacher, his collaborators, and filmmakers including Maya Deren, Hans Richter, Vincent Minelli, and Man Ray; a reprint of the society's original catalog, which features essays by Henry Miller and others; and a wide range of other remarkable historical documents. (Temple University Press)

Winterreise – Songs & Places (2010) is an exploration of Franz Schubert’s iconic song cycle where different spaces intersect in order to create a new and interesting performance. Real-time visuals generated with video games, surround music based on urban field recordings and Schubert’s Winterreise lyrical part were combined. Winterreise – Songs & Places is a collaboration between Victor Morales (visuals), Ulrike Sowodniok (voice and performance) and Hannes Strobl (Music). (Winterreise – Songs & Places)

Audio.Visual - On Visual Music and Related Media (2009) by Cornelia Lund and Holger Lund (Eds.) is divided into two sections: the first deals with the academic discussion on the subject of visual music; the second introduces contemporary paradigms of audio-visual praxis in brief presentations and contextualises them. Apart from being a guide in the historical sense, this new volume provides theoretical approaches to understanding and making visual music. (Fluctuating Images)