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. Breer was also influenced by the concept of Neo-plasticism as described by Piet Mondrian and Vasarely. 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.
Breer explained some of the reasons behind his move from painting to filmmaking in a 1976 interview:
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.
lieutenant 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.
Breer also taught at Cooper Union in New York from 1971 to 2001.
Breer died on August 11, 2011 at his home in Tucson. 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. His film "Eyewash" was included in Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film 1947-1986.
The following films were preserved by Anthology Film Archives.
Form Phases I (1952)
Form Phases II (1953)
Form Phases III (1954)
Form Phases IV (1956)
Un Miracle (1954)
Motion Pictures Number. 1 (1956)
Jamestown Baloos (1957)
A Manitoba and His Dog Out for Air (1957)
Le Mouvement (1957)
Eyewash (1959) – both versions
Fist Fight (1964)
Swiss Army Knife with Rats and Pigeons (1981)