Oskar Fischinger Biographical Sketch


Born: Gelnhausen, Germany, 1900
Died: Los Angeles, CA 1967

Although he was trained in engineering and drafting, Oskar Fischinger gravitated early on towards the arts: he was a scholar of music and Eastern mysticism, a well-educated historian of the modern art movements, and a highly successful abstract film animator. He founded the basis of his art and life on a set of beliefs heavily influenced by Theopsy and the mystical East. His interest in Theopsy, a conception of the artist as a suprasensible being, and a penchant for non-objective forms that conjured up cosmic realms, served as a path to an elevated spirituality. Fischinger captures these elements within his aerial, melodic, biomorphic, abstract canvases. His shapes imply a cosmos, infitie in its reach, inspired by the resounding void of Eastern Mysticism. Created from the 1930s-60s, Fischinger's paintings transcend "our" world and carry the viewer into wondrous, unknown cosmos of "Light, Space and Rhythm."

In 1921, following the example of Walther Ruttmann, Oskar Fischinger renounced easel painting as an artform of the past and espoused abstract animated film--Chronography, or painting in time--as the painting of the future. The choice of abstraction was clear for Oskar, since all of his passions involved some non-objective component: the paintings of Klee and Kandinsky, the modern dance of Laban and Wigman, the New Physics of Einstein and Heisenberg, and various Oriental mysticisms (not only through Steiner and Jung, but also original Tibetan Tantric Buddhism, etc.) Within a decade, he had established his own highly respected animation studio.

In 1936, when Fischinger fled Nazi Germany, he settled in Los Angeles. He worked with Paramount, MGM and Disney studios attempting to achieve the recognition in film which he had left behind in Europe. By this time, he had made at least 25 abstract animated films, creating some 175,000 little sequential abstract paintings. Because these animation frames developed in series, his eye had become particularly sensitive to the delicate balance of geometric forms and shades of color. And because his animations unfolded on a screen over several minutes of time, he thought about the layers of imagery behind and in front of whatever you see at this instant.

However, his independent film style was not compatible with the major film studios, so he readdressed easel painting by the mid-1930s. Fischinger's heritage of film experience made his oil paintings wonderfully distinctive in several ways. He usually built up his imagery in layers, just as if he were composing another film, so that we see the frozen climactic moment, with tantalizing hints of hidden vistas behind. He painted images in many styles--from soft nuanced polymorphic forms (see Translucency, 1948) to bold hard-edged geometric images (see Little Square Spirals, 1939)--because the non-objective language was not new to him: he had invented and perfected his visual semantics 100,000 paintings ago. Fischinger's creative expression was redirected to the easel.

--Dr. William Moritz



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