LAMA BLOG

Oskar Fischinger: Champion of Pure Abstraction

April 29, 2016

A pioneer of modernism in Los Angeles, Oskar Fischinger (1900–1967) is celebrated for his transcendent and metaphysical oil paintings, as well as for his groundbreaking work in abstract film animation. Through each medium, Fischinger explored the boundaries of human perception, offering his audiences a glimpse of the infinite.

Lot 167, Oskar Fischinger, Wave Five (1948)
Lot 167, Oskar Fischinger, Wave Five (1948)
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Fischinger was a champion of pure abstraction. His work in avant-garde cinema in his native Germany had won international attention by the early 1930s. Using techniques as basic as stop-motion filming and materials as simple as paper cut-outs hung by invisible wire, Fischinger produced astonishing visual effects by which brightly-colored, geometric shapes and spirals swooped, spun, and danced across the screen, shot forward, receded, and vanished.

Lot 169, Oskar Fischinger, #310 (1960)
Lot 169, Oskar Fischinger, #310 (1960)
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

At the height of the Nazi regime in Germany, Fischinger accepted a deal with Paramount and left for Hollywood in 1936. There he worked in succession for Paramount, MGM, and Disney, but grew frustrated at every stop as it became more and more apparent that the studios saw film only as a medium for storytelling. In response, Fischinger turned to painting as a creative outlet—one he pursued with vigor for the rest of his life. His artwork is often compared to that of Kandinsky and Klee, though Fischinger’s paintings uniquely embody a sense of cinematic movement. His forms resonate and pulse, move in waves, swell, and burst; or else they drift quietly in cosmic space. For Fischinger, these abstractions were means to transcendent ends. He sought, through painting, to escape the earthly, and to hint at the eternal.

Lot 168, Oskar Fischinger, Refraction #1 (1962)
Lot 168, Oskar Fischinger, Refraction #1 (1962)
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Moritz, William. Optical Poetry: The Life and Work of Oscar Fischinger. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2004. Print. Karlstrom, Paul J., and Susan Ehrlich. Turning the Tide: Early Los Angeles Modernists, 1920-1956. Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1990. Print.

Lot Information:

Lot 167
Oskar Fischinger
Wave Five
1948
Oil on Celotex panel
Signed and dated lower right; artist’s monogram lower left; retains Jack Rutberg Fine Arts Inc. label verso
Panel (vis.): 31.625″ x 38.75″
Frame: 32.625″ x 40″
Provenance: The artist; Thence by descent

Estimate: $10,000–$15,000
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 168
Oskar Fischinger
Refraction #1
1962
Oil on canvas board
Signed lower right; dated with artist’s monogram lower left; retains paper label verso with stamp “Nachlaß/Oskar Fischinger”
Board: 8″ x 10″
Frame: 9.375″ x 11.375″
Provenance: The artist; Thence by descent

Estimate: $2,000–$3,000
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 169
Oskar Fischinger
#310
1960
Oil on canvas board
Signed lower right; dated with artist’s monogram lower left
Board: 11.5″ x 6.75″
Frame: 14.5″ x 9.75″
Provenance: Gerald Nordland, Chicago, Illinois

Estimate: $3,000–$5,000
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

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