Robert Breer

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Robert Breer
Born(1926-09-30)September 30, 1926
DiedAugust 13, 2011(2011-08-13) (aged 84)
Known forExperimental film, Abstract painting, Sculpture
Notable work
MovementPost-Modernism, Modernism

Robert Carlton Breer (September 30, 1926 – August 11, 2011) was an American experimental filmmaker, painter, and sculptor.[1]

"A founding member of the American avant-garde,"[2] Breer was best known for his films, which combine abstract and representational painting, hand-drawn rotoscoping, original 16mm and 8mm film footage, photographs, and other materials.[3] His aesthetic philosophy and technique were influenced by an earlier generation of abstract filmmakers that included Hans Richter, Viking Eggeling, Walter Ruttmann, and Fernand Léger, whose work he discovered while living in Europe.[4] Breer was also influenced by the concept of Neo-plasticism as described by Piet Mondrian and Vasarely.[2]

After experimenting with cartoon animation as a child, he started making his first abstract experimental films while living in Paris from 1949 to 1959, a period during which he also showed paintings and kinetic sculptures at galleries such as the renowned Galerie Denise René.[5][6][7]

Breer explained some of the reasons behind his move from painting to filmmaking in a 1976 interview:[5]

This was 1950 or '51... I was having trouble with a concept, a very rigid notion about painting that I was interested in, that I was involved with, and that was the school of Mondrian. [...] The notion that everything had to be reduced to the bare minimum, put in its place and kept there. It seemed to me overly rigid since I could, at least once a week, arrive at a new 'absolute.' I had a feeling there was something there that suggested change as being a kind of absolute. So that's how I got into film.

— Robert Breer, Transcription of 'Screening Room with Robert Breer (1976)

Breer also taught at Cooper Union in New York from 1971 to 2001.[4]

Breer died on August 11, 2011 at his home in Tucson.[8][9]

Scholarly publications on Breer's work and interviews with the artist can be found in Robert Breer, A Critical Cinema 2: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers by Scott MacDonald, An Introduction to the American Underground Film by Sheldon Renan, Animation in the Cinema by Ralph Stephenson, and Film Culture magazine.[10][11][12][13][14]

Breer won the 1987 Maya Deren Independent Film and Video Artists' Award, presented by the American Film Institute.[15][16]

His film "Eyewash" was included in Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film 1947-1986.[17]

Robert Breer (and currently his estate) has been represented by gb agency, a contemporary art gallery based in Paris, since 2001.

Archival Status[edit]

The following films were preserved by Anthology Film Archives.[18]

  • Form Phases I (1952)
  • Form Phases II (1953)
  • Form Phases III (1954)
  • Form Phases IV (1956)
  • Un Miracle (1954)
  • Recreation (1956)
  • Motion Pictures No. 1 (1956)
  • Jamestown Baloos (1957)
  • A Man and His Dog Out for Air (1957)
  • Le Mouvement (1957)
  • Eyewash (1959) – both versions
  • Blazes (1961)
  • Breathing (1963)
  • Fist Fight (1964)
  • 66 (1966)
  • 69 (1969)
  • 70 (1971)
  • 77 (1970)
  • Fuji (1974)
  • Swiss Army Knife with Rats and Pigeons (1981)
  • Bang! (1986)


  1. ^ William Grimes, "Robert Breer, Pioneer of Avant-Garde Animation, Dies at 84", The New York Times, August 17, 2011, [1].
  2. ^ a b Harvard Film Archive
  3. ^ Carnegie International Museum of Art Website, Artist's bio.
  4. ^ a b Robert Breer Interview on YouTube, "Screening Room with Robert Breer (1976)"
  5. ^ Australian Center for the Moving Image, "Robert Breer: Master of the 4 inch x 6 inch."
  6. ^ Animation World Network Website, Artist's Bio.
  7. ^ Frameworks Listserv
  8. ^ Movie City News, "Experimental Filmmaker Robert Breer Dies at 85."
  9. ^ Wetzel, Roland, Laurence Sillars, Ute Holl, Andres Pardey, and Laurence Sillars. Robert Breer. Bielefeld: Kerber, Christof, 2011. Print.
  10. ^ MacDonald, Scott. A Critical Cinema 2: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992. Print.
  11. ^ Renan, Sheldon. An Introduction to the American Underground Film. New York: Dutton, 1967. Print.
  12. ^ Stephenson, Ralph. Animation in the Cinema. London [u.a.: Zwemmer Limited] u.a., 1967. Print.
  13. ^ Jonas Mekas and P. Adams Sitney, "Interview with Robert Breer," Film Quarterly, 56-57 (Spring 1973), p. 44.
  14. ^ [2], IMDB Awards listing.
  15. ^ [3], "Maya Deren,"
  16. ^ Zorn, John, Martin Scorsese et al. Treasures IV: American Avant Garde Film, 1947-1986. San Francisco, Calif: National Film Preservation Foundation, 2009.
  17. ^ Anthology Film Archives Collections

Further reading[edit]

  • Uroskie, Andrew V. "Visual Music After Cage: Robert Breer, Expanded Cinema and Stockhausen's Originals (1964)". Organised Sound: An International Journal of Music Technology 17, no. 2 (August 2012): 163–69.

External links[edit]