Fischinger, Oskar (1900–1967) By Leskosky, Richard J.
Oskar Fischinger (b. 22 June 1900, Gelnhausen, Germany; d. 31 January, 1967, Los Angeles, US) was one of the most influential German abstract experimental animators and creators of visual music. As a youth he studied draughtsmanship and engineering. In 1922, he invented a machine that photographed sequential slices of wax blocks, producing an abstract film in a relatively short time. In Munich, he continued his experiments in creating visual equivalents to orchestral music while making animated cartoons and multi-projector light shows. In Berlin, he did special effects for Fritz Lang’s Frau im Mond [Woman in the Moon] (1929), helped develop the three colour Gasparcolor process, and made stop-motion commercials. In 1936, Fischinger immigrated to the United States. In 1937 he composed the abstract short An Optical Poem to Liszt’s ‘Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2’ for MGM. He worked nine months on the ‘Toccata and Fugue’ segment of Disney’s Fantasia (1940), but none of his original art appears in the film. He continued making abstract expressionist visual music films until 1947, culminating in his masterwork Motion Painting No. 1. Lack of funding subsequently restricted him to painting; around this time he invented a machine to generate artificial sounds. In 1955 he patented the ‘lumigraph’, which enabled its operator to create silent moving colour compositions. Fischinger influenced a host of avant-garde animators, including Norman McLaren, Jordan Belson, and Len Lye, as well as composer John Cage.