March 1, 2015


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Lot 306: Oskar Fischinger

Lot 306: Oskar Fischinger

#382 and #81 (2)

Oil on board
Each signed "O.W. Fischinger" lower right; each dated with artist's monogram lower right; each with title inscribed verso; each inscribed "to Conrad/1979." verso
Panels each: 8.25" x 6.125"; Frames each: 8.875" x 6.875"
Provenance: The artist;
Thence by descent
Estimate: $6,000 - $9,000
Price Realized: $6,250
Inventory Id: 18205

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A champion of abstract artistic expression, filmmaker and painter Oskar Fischinger (1900–1967) was one of the great creative spirits of the 20th century and a pioneer of multimedia artistry. Fischinger's work is often and admiringly compared to that of Wassily Kandinsky in his use of color and geometric forms. Among dedicated cineastes, Fischinger is revered for the avant-garde, abstract, animated motion pictures he began making in his native Germany in the 1920s, and continued in Hollywood after his move there in 1936. Using techniques as basic as stop-motion filming, and tools as simple as paper cut-outs hung on invisible wires, Fischinger produced an astonishing array of visual effects: brightly-colored circles, spirals, rectangles and polygons swoop, spin, dance, rush forward then recede to infinity.

In the fine art world, Fischinger is admired for the stylistic dexterity of oil paintings that explore human perception and, as the art critic Esther Leslie wrote of Fischinger's work, "a consciousness of space that is not geographical but graphic and time as non-linear and convoluted."

Fischinger began painting soon after his move to the United States. It was a natural adjunct to his work in film, and later a necessary creative outlet. Fischinger's career in animation was repeatedly vexed. The Nazi regime that came to power in 1933 censored his work, deeming it—as they did all abstraction—"degenerate art." In Hollywood, Fischinger continually chafed under studio budgetary and creative restrictions. (He walked off the set of Fantasia in 1939 when Disney animators watered-down his abstract sequence for Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by adding a background of moving clouds and other figurative images.) But when painting, Fischinger could give his creativity free rein. In his notes for a 1956 solo exhibition of his work at the Pasadena Art Museum—the pointillist Flower, (Lot 305), was among the works on display—Fischinger wrote that an artist must create "sentence after sentence of moving, developing visual images changing and changing, in continuously different ways." The present lots—like the work of the artist in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum, the Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and other institutions—demonstrate the breadth of technical versatility he achieved, and the depth to which Fischinger's work challenges our apprehension of space, time and motion.

Moritz, William. Optical Poetry: The Life and Work of Oscar Fischinger. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2004. Print. Leslie, Esther. "Where Abstraction and Comics Collide." Tate Etc. 1 May 2010: 4. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. Karlstrom, Paul J., and Susan Ehrlich. Turning the Tide: Early Los Angeles Modernists, 1920–1956. Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1990. Print.