Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967) ranks as one of the most important film artists of the 20th century, who steered cinema in an entirely new direction in the nineteen twenties, thirties and forties. In his early abstract experiments he strove to develop the purest and clearest visual idiom, stripped of all unnecessary elements. In that respect, Fischinger may be compared to Mondriaan and Malevich, who were in search of the absolute in painting.
Fischinger was also an inventor of all sorts of ingenious cinematic devices, such as the wax-slicing machine and other special effects. He was one of the first animators to couple abstract images with music and rhythms, long before the arrival of the music video.
In 1936, Fischinger turned his back on Hitler’s Germany and left for the US. He worked briefly at the Disney studio, where he designed an animated sequence for Fantasia. His ideas about abstract animation were sharply at odds with the mass-production of Disney. After leaving Disney, Fischinger remained an artistic benchmark for the American avant-garde. Filmmakers such as Norman McLaren, Jordan Belson, John and James Whitney, Len Lye and Harry Smith were influenced by his films, and even composers such as Edgar Varèse and John Cage were inspired by his theories of sound. Fischinger’s rhythmic animations exerted, even after his death in 1967, a strong influence on the makers of computer graphics and visual effects, designers and animators.