Walther Ruttmann
Before becoming a filmmaker, Walther Ruttmann was an abstract painter. He felt that "motion paintings," or abstractions in time, would be the future of art. His Lichtspiel: Opus I (1921) was an eleven-minute work in three movements, set to music by Max Butting. Viewers saw gliding circles, cascading swirls, and rotating crescents fill the screen in full color. It was the first abstract film to be screened for the public, and it is a foundational text both in terms of the history of visual music and a model for considering the moving image in the artisanal mode. Ruttmann composed the film by painting on layers of glass, filming each frame separately, before hand tinting and toning various sections of it to produce heretofore-unseen moving images. Ruttmann's formal innovations opened up new cinematic possibilities--innovations subsequently explored, refined, and expanded by moving-image artists to this day.

Sample Media:

Lichtspiel: Opus I (1921)