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Oskar Fischinger

German/American
(1900–1967)

Blue Cristal
1951

Oil on masonite
34.5 x 41.625 in. (87.63 x 105.728 cm)
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation
1988.26

Better known as a maker of abstract “visual music” films, California-based German émigré Oskar Fischinger was nevertheless also a prolific painter, producing hundreds of canvases between the late 1930s and the 1950s. Painting and filmmaking were conjoined processes for him: his constructivist, rhythmically dynamic, Bauhaus-influenced style is unmistakable in both mediums. His hand-painted film animations are paintings set in motion, realizing his aim to visualize the rhythmic and vibrational essences of music. His paintings are films frozen in time, the pulsing movement of his visual music technique lending the canvases a profound vibrational energy.

Fischinger made his last significant film, Motion Painting No. 1, in 1947. Filmmaking was too costly an endeavor to maintain without patronage, but he continued to explore his ambitions for a new kind of visual art in the paintings he produced after that date. Blue Cristal is typical of much of Fischinger’s work in being composed of layers of geometric shapes, his training as an architectural draftsman in clear evidence. The foreground triangular and rectangular formulations, as well as the background layers of blue, are made up of ne latticework, suggesting a natural origin. The foreground shapes seem to dance in multiple planes, giving the painting a three-dimensional depth.

Fischinger described his works of this period as “space paintings.” A 1951 solo exhibition in Los Angeles also included “stereo paintings,” two near-identical canvases hung side by side to create an illusion of three-dimensionality. It seems clear that Blue Cristal was made with similar aims in mind. Fischinger signed the painting on the bottom right and added a Tibetan prayer wheel symbol on the left. Fascinated by Eastern mysticism and esoteric religious cultures, he believed in the power of visual art and music to transform viewers and listeners to higher states of spiritual selfhood.

James G. Mansell


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