Oskar Fischinger was born on the summer solstice in 1900 in Gelnhausen, Germany. Around 1920 in Frankfurt, he met Dr. Bernhard Diebold at a literary club; seeing Fischinger's abstract scroll sketches, Diebold urged him to take up abstract filmmaking. Oskar was greatly impressed by Walther Ruttmann's Opus I in 1921, at the first public screening of an abstract film. Fischinger soon resigned his engineer's job and moved to Munich to become a full-time filmmaker. By June, 1927 financial difficulties forced Fischinger to leave Munich, so he walked to Berlin where he re-established himself. In 1928, he worked doing rockets and other special effects for Fritz Lang's Frau Im Mond. In 1929 he broke his ankle at the UFA studios and while hospitalized, decided that he must devote himself full-time to abstract filmmaking. He then produced the remarkable series of black-and-white studies tightly synchronized to music. These Studies screened widely in Europe, Japan and America, and came to be in such demand that by 1932 Fischinger had his brother Hans, his wife Elfriede, and three other girls working at Fischinger Studio. Oskar pursued experiments with drawn synthetic sound and collaborated with Bela Gaspar on a three-color film process, GasparColor, which allowed him in 1933 to complete his first color film Kreise. Fischinger's subsequent color films Muratti Marches On and Composition in Blue gained so much critical and popular acclaim that Paramount offered him a contract, and in February 1936 he set sail for Hollywood never to return to Germany.
Fischinger found it extremely difficult to work in studio situations, enduring episodes at Paramount (1936), MGM (1937), and Disney (1938-9). His frustration at not being able to produce independent film led him to take up oil painting, and he came under the patronage of Hilla Rebay, curator of the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation, who extended several grants to him during the difficult war years. Unfortunately, they quarreled over the artistic merits of his film Motion Painting No.1 (1947) and he never again received adequate financial support to complete another film. For the last twenty years of his life, Fischinger had to content himself with unfinished projects, with his paintings and with a home light-show instrument, the Lumigraph. After some years of relative ill health, he died on January 31, 1967.
Dr. William Moritz
Image copyright The Elfriede Fischinger Trust, all rights reserved.