Hilla Rebay non-objective film collection

Hilla Rebay non-objective film collection

Collection Overview

Repository:
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives.
Creator:
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Curatorial Department.
Title:
Hilla Rebay non-objective film collection
Call Number:
A0037
Dates:
1921-2005 (bulk 1930-1945)
Volume:
13 cubic ft. (28 films, 1 box)
Historical Abstract:
Shortly after prompting Solomon R. Guggenheim (SRG) to open the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, Hilla von Rebay (HVR), Museum Director, launched plans to establish a film center. Particularly influenced by three filmmakers, Hans Richter (HR), Oskar Fischinger (OF), and Norman McLaren, HVR expected film to be an influential aspect of the non-objective art movement and intended to construct a film center and archives that reflected the work being done in film relating to the movement. The Hilla Rebay non-objective film collection originated in the early 1940's through HVR's acceptance of a portion of HR's personal film collection. In keeping with the Museum's mission, HVR accepted only the works that she regarded as non-objective. Following the death of SRG on November 3, 1949, plans for a film center were dropped. In 1969 the originals of the film collection were gifted to the Library of Congress.
Scope and Content Abstract:
The Hilla Rebay non-objective film collection consists of 28 non-objective films with production years spanning 1921-1952 and related documentation. 25 of the 28 films were collected by Hilla von Rebay (HVR) during her time as Museum Director. Three of the films were acquired after her tenure. There are positives of all prints and negatives of a small number of titles. Prints are all 16 millimeter. Both black and white and color films are present. Included are works by Viking Eggeling, Oskar Fischinger, László Moholy-Nagy, and Hans Richter. It is important to note that the films are not unique, nor are they originals. The related documentation includes information regarding the purchase of the films, correspondence between HVR and the filmmakers, documents relating to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation's gifting of the films to the Library of Congress, documentation of screenings of the films and reports pertaining to the condition of the original prints. Also included is curatorial research related to the collection and printed images of stills from selected Fischinger and McLaren films.
Location:
Cold Storage Vault 1071, OS
Language:
Collection is primarily in English.
Arrangement:
Organized into 2 series: 1. Films; 2. Documentation
Restrictions:
The films found in Series 1 are currently unavailable for viewing. Restricted documents are closed to outside researchers. Contact the Director of Library and Archives for further information.
Publication Rights:
Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Director of the Library and Archives.
Preferred Citation:
Hilla Rebay non-objective film collection. A0037. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, New York, NY.
Subjects:
Animated films.
Experimental films.
Museum of Non-Objective Painting.
Contributors:
Fischinger, Oskar, 1900-1967.
McLaren, Norman, 1917-1987.
Rebay, Hilla, 1890-1967.
Finding aid prepared by Kathleen Maguire in February 2007.

Historical Note

The Museum of Non-Objective Painting (MNOP) was established in 1939 by Solomon R. Guggenheim (SRG) with Hilla von Rebay (HVR) named as its artistic director. HVR met SRG in September 1927. The two became close, with HVR painting a portrait of SRG in 1928 and introducing him to the non-objective movement. She encouraged SRG to expand his collection to include non-objective painting and assisted in the exhibition of the works. In 1933, HVR first approached SRG with the idea of establishing a museum for his collection and the MNOP was opened in 1939. In 1952, the museum name was changed to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Shortly after the opening of the MNOP, HVR launched plans to establish a film center at the museum. Particularly influence by three filmmakers, Hans Richter (HR), Oskar Fischinger (OF), and Norman McLaren (NM), HVR expected film to be an influential aspect of the non-objective art movement and intended to construct a film center and archives that reflected the work being done in film relating to the movement. HVR envisioned that the center would include exhibition spaces of both traditional and experimental forms and a studio space for filmmakers. At the MNOP, she routinely organized screenings, often of the aforementioned artists' works.

The Hilla Rebay non-objective film collection originated in the early 1940's through HVR's acceptance of a portion of HR's personal film collection. Eager to escape Europe and the impending war, HR offered HVR his entire collection, which included works by artists such as Man Ray, Leger, Ivens, Cavalcanti, and Renoir, with the hope of receiving immigration assistance from HVR. HVR did assist him with his move to the United States in 1942 and in keeping with the Museum's mission, HVR accepted only the works that she regarded as non-objective. These included Viking Eggeling's "Diagonal Symphony," HR's own "Rythmus 21," and a film by OF. Beyond contributing the establishing works of the collection, HR aided HVR in her planning of the film center.

HVR hoped the film center would be run by OF, an artist who she greatly admired and whose work she considered to be imperative to the movement. A successful German filmmaker who relocated to the United States for a contract with Paramount Studios, OF met HVR in 1938 after having been terminated from his studio contract. Due to his unemployment, HVR told associates that she was, "helping Fischinger out for a time," and many of OF's films were completed through the support of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and HVR.

Like OF, NM created several of his films with the support of HVR and the intention of selling his work to the MNOP. NM met HVR in 1940, soon after he had moved to the United States from England. When HVR expressed interest in his filmmaking, NM immediately made "Dots" and "Loops," with the goal of their being added to HVR's growing film collection. After they were met with enthusiasm by HVR, he completed "Stars and Stripes," "Boogie-Doodle," and "Scherzo." HVR also included NM in her planning of the film center, soliciting his advice on both technical logistics and programming plans. Although at the time he met HVR he was a self-described, "starving and out-of-work artist, who had tinkered a little with making abstract movies, and dreamt of making more . . .," with the benefit of Rebay's enthusiasm, NM was able to make several abstract movies and exhibit a talent that garnered him a position at the National Film Board of Canada.

Following the death of SRG on November 3, 1949, plans for a film center were dropped. Hilla Rebay resigned from the MNOP in 1952 amid criticism of her leadership and conflict with trustees. In 1969 the originals of the film collection were gifted to the Library of Congress.

Chronology of Hilla Rebay non-objective film collection

1910 – 1912Italian filmmakers Arnaldo Ginna and Bruno Corra produce several color, non-objective films by painting directly on the film.
1921Hans Richter releases "Rythmus 21." Hilla Rebay sees the film in Berlin and is roused by his filmmaking approach. Richter subsequently claims, incorrectly, to have made the first non-objective film.
1936Oskar Fischinger relocates from Germany to the United States for a contract with Paramount. A disagreement over a sequence in "Big Broadcast of 1937" leads to his termination. The sequence becomes "Allegretto." Norman McLaren begins his film work at the General Post Office Film Unit in London.
1938Rebay meets Fischinger and offers him financial assistance for his films. Fischinger becomes general director of Disney's "Fantasia." Fischinger is said to have originated, "the idea of a feature-length abstract film based on music by Bach." He loses his position due to disagreements with the studio.
1939McLaren relocates to the United States.
1940McLaren meets Rebay and subsequently completes films with the specific intention of selling them to Museum of Non-Objective Painting.
1941McLaren joins the National Film Board of Canada. He retained this position for the remainder of his career.
1942Richter immigrates to the United States. He becomes director at the Film Institute of the City College of New York. Dwinell Grant proposes a film to the Museum of Non-Objective Painting's board. Despite receiving funds from the foundation, the Museum never receives the film. Included in the collection is one of Grant's earlier films, "Themes," and later films, "Composition 5, Part 1."
1944James and John Whitney introduce themselves to Rebay. Rebay sends them funding. The Whitney Brothers do not complete any films with this funding. The Museum retained excerpts of their film, "5 Film Exercises," which the brothers sent with their initial letter to Rebay.
1947Fischinger sends Rebay "Motion Painting No. 1." The result of Rebay's suggestion that he make a film without music, it becomes his most-acclaimed work.
1949Plans for a film center at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting are dropped. Rebay ceases funding non-objective films and filmmakers.

Bibliography

Art of Tommorrow: Hilla Rebay and Solomon R. Guggenheim. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2005.
Lukach, Joan M. Hilla Rebay: In Search of the Spirit of Art. New York: George Brazziller, 1983: 211-25.
Moritz, William. Non-Objective Film: The Second Generation.: Film as Film, Formal Experiments in Film, 1910-1975. London: Hayward Gallery, 1979.

Scope and Content Note

The Hilla Rebay non-objective film collection consists of 28 non-objective films and related documentation. The films date from 1921-1952. 25 of the films were collected by Hilla von Rebay (HVR) during her time as Museum director. The three films that are not part of the original collection, Dwinell Grant's "Composition 5, Part 1," and "Themes," and Norman McLaren's "Le Merle," were acquired later, however the filmmakers and their films are associated with HVR.

The collection includes positives of all prints and negatives of a small number of titles. All prints are 16 millimeter. Both black and white and color films are present. Duplicate copies of some titles are included. The films are not unique, nor are they the originals. Included are works by Mary Ellen Bute, Viking Eggeling, Dwinell Grant (DG), Oskar Fischinger (OF), NM, László Moholy-Nagy (LMN), Hans Richter, and John and James Whitney (Whitney Brothers, WB).

The films in this collection were carefully selected and solicited by HVR as examples of the non-objective film movement. Included are early examples of animation technique, such as in NM's "Boogie Doodle" and "Spook Sport." Also present are early hybridizations between music and non-figurative animation in the films of OF including "Allegretto," and "American March." The collection includes films that are seminal to the early avant-garde film movement, incorporating films from both the "first generation" (OF, LMN, HR) and the "second generation" whom they influenced (DG, WB).

The films found in Series 1 are currently unavailable for viewing.

The related documentation contains information regarding the purchase of the films, correspondence between HVR and the filmmakers, and documents relating to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation's gifting of the films to the Library of Congress. Also included is documentation of film screenings and reports pertaining to the condition of the original prints.

Series Descriptions

Series 1. Films, 1921 - 1949 (bulk 1930 - 1940), 12 cubic ft. (28 films)
Summary: Series 1. Films contains the films that comprised Hilla Rebay's original non-objective film collection, as well as three later acquisitions. Highlights included several work by Oskar Fischinger, as well as two of the earliest Non-Objective films, Viking Eggeling's "Diagonal Symphony," and Hans Richter's "Rythmus 21." Runtime is listed if known. The films found in this series are currently unavailable for viewing.
Arrangement: Alphabetical by artist
Series 2. Hilla Rebay non-objective film collection documentation, 1930-1981, 2005 (bulk 1940-1949), 1 cubic ft. (1 box)
Summary: Series 2. Documentation includes documents relating to administrative aspects of the collection as well as documents relating to the filmmakers represented in the collection. It is divided into 2 subseries. Subseries A. Administrative includes documentation of the Museum's internal handling of the films. Prominent amongst these documents are inventory reports conducted over a span of many years, condition reports relating to the original nitrate prints, correspondence regarding film insurance amounts, purchasing prices, and documents related to outside inquiries into the collection. Subseries B. Filmmakers includes documentation of four of the artists represented in the non-objective film collection. These artists are Oskar Fishinger (OF), Norman McLaren, Han Richter and James Whitney. Correspondence between Rebay and the filmmakers reflect Rebay's prominent role in their craft. Also included are programming notes and documents pertaining to a dispute between OF and the Museum regarding film ownership.
Arrangement: Organized into 2 subseries: A. Administrative; B. Filmmakers

Folder List

Series 1. Films, 1921 - 1949 (bulk 1930 - 1940), 12 cubic ft. (28 films)
BoxFolderTitleDate
691926Bute, Mary Ellen: "Tarentella." 16mm. color. 4 min. 1941
691926Eggeling, Viking: "Diagonal Symphony." 16mm. b/w. 5 min.1924
Fischinger, Oskar
786287"Allegretto." 16mm. color. 3 min.1936-1943
786287"An American March." 16mm. color. 3 min. 1940-1941
786287"Circles." 16mm. color. 3 min. 1933
786287"Composition in Blue." 16mm. color. 4 min. 1933-1935
786287"Kreise." 16mm. color. 3 min. 1933
786287"Optical Poem." 16mm. color. 7 min.1937
786287"Study # 5." 16mm. b/w. 3 min. 1930
786287"Study # 6." 16mm. b/w. 2 min. 1930
786287"Study # 7." 16mm. b/w. 3 min. 1930-1931
786287"Study # 8." 16mm. b/w. 4 min. 1931
786287"Study # 9." 16mm. b/w. 3 min. 1931
786287"Study # 11." 16mm. b/w. 4 min. 1932
786287"Study #12." 16mm. b/w. 5 min. 1932
Grant, Dwinell
691926"Composition 5, Part 1." 16mm. color. 8 min. 1949
786287"Themes." 16mm. color. 4 min.1940
McLaren, Norman
691926"Boogie Doodle." 16mm. color. 3 min. 1948
691926"Le Merle." 16mm. color. 5 min.1958
691926"Loops." 16mm. color. 3 min. 1940
691926"Scherzo." 16mm. color. 1 min. 1939
691926"Spook Sport." 16mm. color. 9 min. 1939-1940
691926"Stars and Stripes." 16mm. color. 3 min. 1943
691926"Three by McLaren: Buy Bonds, March and V for Victory." 16mm. color.1942
691926"Three Themes in Variation." 16mm. color. unknown
691926Moholy-Nagy, László: "Black, White, Gray." 16mm.1930
786551[Rebay Introductions to Films]. 16 mm. b/w. silent.undated
691927Richter, Hans: "Rythmus 21." 16mm. b/w. 3 min. 1921
691926Whitney, James and John: "Excerpts from 5 Film Exercises." 16mm. 1943-1944
Series 2. Hilla Rebay non-objective film collection documentation, 1930-1981, 2005 (bulk 1940-1949), 1 cubic ft. (1 box)
BoxFolderTitleDate
A. Administrative
561 (786445)1Condition and Storage (restricted)1941, 1953-1968, undated
561 (786445)2Curatorial Research undated
561 (786445)3Finances (restricted) 1940-1942, 1947, undated
561 (786445)4Insurance (restricted) 1941-1944, 1957
561 (786445)5Inquiries1956, 1967-1978
561 (786445)6Inventories1942, 1943, 1949, 1956-1978, 1995
561 (786445)7Library of Congress Donation1969-1971, 1995
561 (786445)8Original Film Can Labels undated
561 (786445)9Screenings1943, 1954, 1969-1981, 1987, 1995, undated
B. Filmmakers
Fischinger, Oskar
561 (786445)10-11General (2 folders)1939-1976
561 (786445)12Optical Poem1943-1956
561 (786445)13Prints1930-1943?, 1947
561 (786445)14Stills1933- 1935
McLaren, Norman
561 (786445)15General1940- 1942, 1980, undated
561 (786445)16Stills1939- 1943
561 (786445)17Richter, Hans 1948?
561 (786445)18Whitney, James1944, 1972, undated