The Picture Silhouettes of Lotte Reiniger

An artist working in the 20th century, Lotte Reiniger found her inspiration in Chinese shadow puppetry.  In 1926, she pioneered silhouette animation(take that, disney!) by creating the first full length animation film in, The Adventures of Prince Achmed.  To say it’s beautiful is an understatement.  However much our modern eyes are used to 3D, Reiniger’s early images still retain their ability to whisk viewers away with evocative fairy tale landscapes, spindly gossamer creatures, and intricate storyboards. 

Watch The Art of Lotte Reiniger if you’re of the particularly curious or visual sort.  Otherwise, here follows the rundown.  

Her technique, if time-consuming, is charmingly simple:  black cardboard cutout figures, assembled piece by piece and pinned together by wire hinges at joints to allow for movement.  The figures are then reinforced with flat lead pieces,  finished by rolling it flat, and placed on the animation table which is essentially glass, transparent paper, and atop that, the silhouettes.  Light is shone from underneath, all other light extinguished.  The figure can now be manipulated, the shot, taken, then the action repeated until the scene is captured. 

In motion, the silhouettes remind me of pinocchio,loose limbed, but instead of being clunky, their movements possess fluidity.  Even static, they are wonderful to see. 

The labor required for Reiniger’s silhouettes was incredible–not only did she draw the figures, planning for scene and movement, she cut them out by hand.  Lazy me can’t even write in my journal for five minutes without getting hand cramps! 

Anywho, come back later this week for a post to learn more about silhouettes!  Their origin resides in the 18th century where partygoers used to amused themselves with this delightful pasttime.

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