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Hans Richter (April 6, 1888 – February 1, 1976)
was a painter, graphic artist, avant-gardist, film-experimenter and producer.
He was born in Berlin into a well-to-do family and died in Minusio, near Locarno, Switzerland.
Richter's first contacts with modern art were in 1912 through the "Blaue Reiter" and in 1913 through the "Erster Deutsche Herbstsalon" gallery "Der Sturm", in Berlin. In 1914 he was influenced by cubism. He contributed to the periodical Die Aktion in Berlin.  His first exhibition was in Munich in 1916, and Die Aktion published as a special edition about him. In the same year he was wounded and discharged from the army and went to Zürich and joined the Dada movement.
Richter believed that the artist's duty was to be actively political, opposing war and supporting the revolution. His first abstract works were made in 1917. In 1918, he befriended Viking Eggeling, and the two experimented together with film. Richter was co-founder, in 1919, of the Association of Revolutionary Artists ("Artistes Radicaux") at Zürich. In the same year he created his first Prélude (an orchestration of a theme developed in eleven drawings). In 1920 he was a member of the November group in Berlin and contributed to the Dutch periodical De Stijl.
Throughout his career, he claimed that his 1921 film, Rhythmus 21, was the first abstract film ever created. This claim is not true: he was preceded by the Italian Futurists Bruno Corra and Arnaldo Ginna between 1911 and 1912 (as they report in the Futurist Manifesto of Cinema ), as well as by fellow German artist Walter Ruttmann who produced Lichtspiel Opus 1 in 1920. Nevertheless, Richter's film Rhythmus 21 is considered an important early abstract film.
About Richter's woodcuts and drawings Michel Seuphor wrote: "Richter's black-and-whites together with those of Arp and Janco, are the most typical works of the Zürich period of Dada." From 1923 to 1926, Richter edited, together with Werner Gräff and Mies van der Rohe, the periodical G. Material zur elementaren Gestaltung. Richter wrote of his own attitude toward film:
"I conceive of the film as a modern art form particularly interesting to the sense of sight. Painting has its own peculiar problems and specific sensations, and so has the film. But there are also problems in which the dividing line is obliterated, or where the two infringe upon each other. More especially, the cinema can fulfill certain promises made by the ancient arts, in the realization of which painting and film become close neighbors and work together."
Richter moved from Switzerland to the United States in 1940 and became an American citizen. He taught in the Institute of Film Techniques at the City College of New York. 
While living in New York, Richter directed 2 feature films, Dreams That Money Can Buy and 8x8: A Chess Sonata in collaboration with Max Ernst, Jean Cocteau, Paul Bowles, Fernand Léger, Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp and others, which was partially filmed on the lawn of his summer house in Southbury, Connecticut.
In 1957, he finished a film entitled Dadascope with original poems and prosa spoken by their creators: Hans Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Raoul Hausmann, Richard Huelsenbeck, and Kurt Schwitters.
After 1958 Richter spent parts of the year in Ascona and Connecticut and returned to painting. 
Richter was also the author of a first-hand account of the Dada movement titled Dada: Art and Anti-Art  which also included his reflections on the emerging Neo-Dada artworks.
8 x 8: A Chess Sonata in 8 Movements (1957)
Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947)
Vom Blitz zum Fernsenhbild (1936)
Keine Zeit für Tränen (1934)
Hallo Everybody (1933)
Europa Radio (1931)
Neues Leben (1930)
Alles dreht sich, alles bewegt sich (1929)
The Storming of La Sarraz (1929)
Vormittagsspuk ("Ghosts Before Breakfast", with music by Hindemith) (1928)
Filmstudie (1926) with music by Darius Milhaud
Rhythmus 25 (1925)
Rhythmus 23 (1923)
Rhythmus 21 (1921)
* Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920's and 1930's
Viking Eggeling (21 October 1880, Lund – 19 May 1925, Berlin)
was a Swedish artist and filmmaker. His work is of significance in the area of experimental film, and has been described as absolute film and Visual Music.
At the age of sixteen, the orphaned Eggeling moved to Germany to pursue an artistic career. He studied art history in Milan from 1901 to 1907, supporting himself with work as a bookkeeper. He lived in Paris from 1911 to 1915; he was acquainted with Amadeo Modigliani, Hans Arp, and other artists of the time.
In Zurich in 1918, he was introduced to Hans Richter by Tristan Tzara. Richter wrote that "The contrast between us, which was that between method and spontaneity, only served to strengthen our mutual attraction...for three years we marched side by side, although we fought on separate fronts." In 1920 they began experimenting with film. In collaboration with Erna Niemeyer, Eggeling made a film called Symphonie Diagonale, which was completed in 1924 and first exhibited in May 1925, just before his death.
Walter Ruttmann (28 December 1887 – 15 July 1941)
was a German film director and along with Hans Richter and Viking Eggeling was an early German practitioner of experimental film.
Ruttmann was born in Frankfurt am Main; he studied architecture and painting and worked as a graphic designer. His film career began in the early 1920s. His first abstract short films, "Opus I" (1921) and "Opus II" (1923), were experiments with new forms of film expression, and the influence of these early abstract films is especially obvious in the work of Oskar Fischinger in the 1930s. Ruttmann and his colleagues of the avant garde movement enriched the language of film as a medium with new form techniques.
Ruttmann was a prominent exponent of both avant-garde art and music. His early abstractions played at the 1929 Baden-Baden Festival to international acclaim despite their being almost eight years old. Together with Erwin Piscator, he worked on the experimental film "Melodie der Welt" (1929).
During the Nazi period he worked as an assistant to director Leni Riefenstahl on Triumph of the Will (1935). He died in Berlin.
* Lichtspiel: Opus I (1921)
* Lichtspiel: Opus II (1923)
* Lichtspiel: Opus III (1924)
* Lichtspiel: Opus IV (1925)
* Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (1927) in collaboration with Alberto Cavalcanti
* Melodie der Welt (1929)
* Wochenende (1930) [an experimental film with sound only, no image]
* Acciaio (Stahl, 1933)
* Altgermanische Bauernkultur (1934)
* Schiff in Not (1936)
* Mannesmann (1937)
* Henkel, ein deutsches Werk in seiner Arbeit (1938)
* Waffenkammern Deutschlands (1940)
* Deutsche Panzer (1940)
* Krebs (1941)
Oskar Fischinger (22 June 1900, Gelnhausen, Germany — 31 January 1967, Los Angeles) was an abstract animator, filmmaker, and painter. He made over 50 short animated films, and painted c. 800 canvases, many of which are in museums, galleries and collections worldwide. Among his film works is Motion Painting No. 1 (1947), which is now listed on the National Film Registry of the U. S. Library of Congress.
Born in Gelnhausen, Germany, Oskar Wilhelm Fischinger was the fourth of six children. His father ran a drugstore while his mother's family owned a combination brewery, tavern, and bowling alley. At an early age he dabbled in painting, encouraged by the painters who came to capture Gelnhausen's scenery. Also interested in music (he took violin lessons), he apprenticed at an organ-building firm until the owners were drafted into the war. The next year he worked as a draftsman in an architect's office, until he himself was called to duty. He was rejected as being unhealthy, and the Fischinger family moved west to Frankfurt. There Fischinger attended a trade school and worked as an apprentice at a factory, eventually obtaining an engineer's diploma.
In Frankfurt he met the theater critic Bernhard Diebold, who in 1921 introduced Fischinger to the work and personage of Walter Ruttmann, a pioneer in abstract film. Inspired by Ruttmann's work, Fischinger began experimenting with colored liquids and three-dimensional modeling materials such as wax and clay. He conceptualized a "Wax Slicing Machine", which synchronized a vertical slicer with a movie camera's shutter, enabling the efficient imaging of progressive cross-sections through a length of molded wax and clay. Fischinger wrote to Ruttmann about his machine, who expressed interest. Moving to Munich, Fischinger licensed the wax slicing machine to Ruttmann and began working on the first production model. Upon delivery, Ruttmann found that hot film lights often melted the wax to a serious degree. Ruttmann gave up, though during this time Fischinger shot many abstract tests of his own using the machine (some of these are distributed today under the assigned title Wax Experiments).
In 1924 Fischinger was hired by American entrepreneur Louis Seel to produce satirical cartoons that tended toward mature audiences. He also made abstract films and tests of his own, trying new and different techniques, including the use of multiple projectors.
In 1926-27 Fischinger performed his own multiple projector film shows with various musical accompaniment. These shows were titled Fieber (Fever), Vakuum, Macht (Power) and later, R-1 ein Formspiel. (Keefer, 2005)
Facing financial difficulties, Fischinger borrowed from his family, and then his landlady. Finally, in an effort to escape bill collectors, Fischinger decided to surreptitiously depart Munich for Berlin in June 1927. Taking only his essential equipment, he walked 350 miles through the countryside, shooting single frames that were later released as a film in itself: Walking from Munich to Berlin.
Arriving in Berlin, Fischinger borrowed some money from a relative and set up a studio on Friedrichstraße. He soon was doing the special effects for various films. His own proposals for cartoons were not accepted by producers or distributors, however. In 1928 he was hired to work on Fritz Lang's space epic Frau im Mond, which provided him a steady salary for a time. On his own time, he experimented with charcoal-on-paper animation. He produced a series of abstract Studies that were synchronized to popular and classical music. A few of the early Studies were synchronized to new record releases by Electrola, and screened at first-run theatres with a tail credit advertising the record, thus making them, in a sense, the very first music videos.
The Studies -- Numbers 1 through 12 -- were well-received at art theaters and many were distributed to first-run theatres throughout Europe. Some of the Studies were distributed to theatres in Japan and the US. His Studie Nr. 5 screened at the 1931 "Congress for Colour-Music Research" to critical acclaim. In 1931 Universal Pictures purchased distribution rights to Studie Nr. 5 for the American public, and Studie Nr. 7 screened as a short with a popular movie in Berlin. The special effects Fischinger did for other movies led to his being called "the Wizard of Friedrichstraße". In 1932, Oskar also married Elfriede Fischinger, a first cousin from his hometown of Gelnhausen.
As the Nazis consolidated power after 1933, the abstract film and art communities and distribution possibilities quickly disappeared as the Nazis instituted their policies against what they termed "degenerate art". Fischinger continued to make films, and also found work producing commercials and advertisements, among them Muratti Greift Ein (Muratti Gets in the Act) (1934), for a cigarette company, and Kreise (Circles) (1933), for an ad agency. The color Muratti commercial with it stop-motion dancing cigarettes was a sensation, screening all over Europe. Though Fischinger at times ran afoul of the Nazi authorities, he nevertheless managed to complete his abstract work Komposition in Blau in 1935. It was well-received critically, and contrary to popular myth, was legally registered.
At this time an agent from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had screened a print of Komposition in Blau and Muratti in a small art theatre in Hollywood, and Ernst Lubitsch was impressed by the films and the audience's enthusiastic response to the shorts. An agent from Paramount Pictures telephoned Fischinger, asking if he was willing to work in America, and Fischinger promptly agreed.
Upon arriving in Hollywood in February 1936, Fischinger was given an office at Paramount, German-speaking secretaries, an English tutor, and a weekly salary of $250. With no immediate assignment, Fischinger sketched and painted. He and Elfriede socialized with the émigré community, but felt out of place among the elites.
Oskar prepared the film Allegretto, tightly synchronized to Ralph Rainger's tune "Radio Dynamics". Allegretto was planned for inclusion in the feature film The Big Broadcast of 1937 (1936). Unfortunately, he found that Paramount had changed the film project from Technicolor to black-and-white. Also, Paramount printed the black-and-white version intercut with various live action images, so it was no longer totally abstract. Fischinger left Paramount. Several years later, with the help of Hilla von Rebay and a grant from the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, he was able to buy the film back from Paramount. Fischinger then redid and re-painted the cels, and made a color version to his satisfaction. This became one of the most-screened and successful films of visual music's history, and one of Fischinger's most popular films.
All Fischinger's filmmaking attempts in America suffered difficulties. He composed An Optical Poem (1937) to Franz Liszt's Second Hungarian Rhapsody for MGM, but received no profits due to studio bookkeeping systems. He designed the J. S. Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor sequence for Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940), but quit without credit because all studio artists simplified and altered all his designs to be more representational. According to William Moritz, Fischinger contributed to the effects animation of the Blue Fairy's wand in Pinocchio (1940). In the 1950s, Fischinger did create several animated TV advertisements, including one for Muntz TV which unfortunately never aired.
The Guggenheim Foundation required him to synchronize a film with a march by John Philip Sousa in order to demonstrate loyalty to America, and then insisted that he make a film to Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, even though he wanted to make a film without sound in order to affirm the integrity of his non-objective imagery. Secretly, Fischinger composed the silent masterpiece Radio Dynamics (1942) which breathes slow pulsating rhythms and astonishing single-frame flickers of painterly images.
Frustrated in his filmmaking, Fischinger turned increasingly to oil painting as a creative outlet. Although the Guggenheim Foundation specifically required a cel animation film, Fischinger made his Bach film Motion Painting No. 1 (1947) as a documentation of the act of painting, taking a single frame each time he made a brush stroke -- and the multi-layered style merely parallels the structure of the Bach music without any tight synchronization. Although he never again received funding for a film, the breathtaking Motion Painting No. 1 won the Grand Prix at the Brussels International Experimental Film Competition in 1949. Three of Fischinger's films also made the 1984 Olympiad of Animation's list of the world's greatest films. (The latter two paragraphs only are from the Fischinger biography by film historian William Moritz at the Fischinger Archive website.
In the late 1940s Fischinger invented the Lumigraph (patented in 1955) which others have called a type of color organ. Like other inventors of color organs, Fischinger hoped to make the Lumigraph a commercial product, widely available for anyone, but this did not happen.
The instrument produced imagery by pressing against a rubberized screen so it could protrude into a narrow beam of colored light. As a visual instrument, the size of its screen was limited by the reach of the performer. Two people were required to operate the Lumigraph: one to manipulate the screen to create imagery, and a second to change the colors of the lights on cue.
The device itself was silent, but was performed accompanying various music. Fischinger did several performance in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco in the early 1950s, performing various classical and popular music pieces, and many were impressed by the machine's spectacular images. In 1964 the Lumigraph was used in the science fiction film The Time Travelers, in which it became a 'love machine' (this was not Fischinger's intent, this was the decision of the film's producers). His son Conrad even built two more machines in different sizes. After Fischinger's death, his widow Elfriede and daughter Barbara did performances with the Lumigraph, along with William Moritz, in Europe and the US.
Today one of the instruments is displayed at Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt, and is still played occasionally. In February 2007 Barbara Fischinger performed on this Lumigraph. Other Lumigraphs are in California. Film and video documentation of Elfriede's Lumigraph performances are at the Center for Visual Music in Los Angeles, CA.
* William Moritz, Optical Poetry: The Life and Work of Oskar Fischinger, (London: John Libbey & Company; Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004) ISBN 0-253-21641-9
* Fischinger Bibliography at CVM Fischinger Research Pages
* Clavier à lumières
* Color organ
* Louis Bertrand Castel
* Mary Hallock-Greenewalt
* Thomas Wilfred
* Klein, Adrian Bernard, 'Coloured Light An Art Medium' 3rd ed. The Technical Press, London, 1937
* Rimington, Alexander Wallace, 'Colour-Music The Art Of Mobile Colour' Hutchinson, London, 1912
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