Hilla Rebay non-objective film collection
Museum of Non-Objective Painting.
McLaren, Norman, 1917-1987.
Rebay, Hilla, 1890-1967.
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.
|1910 – 1912||Italian filmmakers Arnaldo Ginna and Bruno Corra produce several color, non-objective films by painting directly on the film.|
|1921||Hans 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.|
|1936||Oskar 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.|
|1938||Rebay 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.|
|1939||McLaren relocates to the United States.|
|1940||McLaren meets Rebay and subsequently completes films with the specific intention of selling them to Museum of Non-Objective Painting.|
|1941||McLaren joins the National Film Board of Canada. He retained this position for the remainder of his career.|
|1942||Richter 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."|
|1944||James 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.|
|1947||Fischinger 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.|
|1949||Plans for a film center at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting are dropped. Rebay ceases funding non-objective films and filmmakers.|
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 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.
|691926||Bute, Mary Ellen: "Tarentella." 16mm. color. 4 min.||1941|
|691926||Eggeling, Viking: "Diagonal Symphony." 16mm. b/w. 5 min.||1924|
|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|
|691926||"Composition 5, Part 1." 16mm. color. 8 min.||1949|
|786287||"Themes." 16mm. color. 4 min.||1940|
|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|
|691926||Moholy-Nagy, László: "Black, White, Gray." 16mm.||1930|
|786551||[Rebay Introductions to Films]. 16 mm. b/w. silent.||undated|
|691927||Richter, Hans: "Rythmus 21." 16mm. b/w. 3 min.||1921|
|691926||Whitney, James and John: "Excerpts from 5 Film Exercises." 16mm.||1943-1944|
|561 (786445)||1||Condition and Storage (restricted)||1941, 1953-1968, undated|
|561 (786445)||2||Curatorial Research||undated|
|561 (786445)||3||Finances (restricted)||1940-1942, 1947, undated|
|561 (786445)||4||Insurance (restricted)||1941-1944, 1957|
|561 (786445)||5||Inquiries||1956, 1967-1978|
|561 (786445)||6||Inventories||1942, 1943, 1949, 1956-1978, 1995|
|561 (786445)||7||Library of Congress Donation||1969-1971, 1995|
|561 (786445)||8||Original Film Can Labels||undated|
|561 (786445)||9||Screenings||1943, 1954, 1969-1981, 1987, 1995, undated|
|561 (786445)||10-11||General (2 folders)||1939-1976|
|561 (786445)||12||Optical Poem||1943-1956|
|561 (786445)||13||Prints||1930-1943?, 1947|
|561 (786445)||14||Stills||1933- 1935|
|561 (786445)||15||General||1940- 1942, 1980, undated|
|561 (786445)||16||Stills||1939- 1943|
|561 (786445)||17||Richter, Hans||1948?|
|561 (786445)||18||Whitney, James||1944, 1972, undated|