Moholy – Nagy, Laszlo

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Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

Bácsborsód, Hungary, 1895

Chicago, 1946


Moholy-Nagy started studying a law degree at the University of Budapest and in 1915 joined the Austro-Hungarian army. Around that time he did his first drawings and watercolors on postcards. In 1917 he was sent to the Russian front, where he was wounded. Having graduated from the army, he dropped his law studies and started painting as a self-taught artist. With the fall of the Hungarian Republic in 1919, he briefly went into exile in Vienna where he came int contact with the group of revolutionary Hungarian artists known as MA. In Berlin, where he moved the following year, he met Kurt Schwitters, Raoul Hausmann and Hanna Höch, among others. 

In 1922 he held his first solo exhibition at the Der Sturm Gallery, where he showed paintings on which he applied objects and constructions of glass, wood, zinc, etc. That same year he met Walter Gropius and Theo van Doesburg, whose article Produktion-Reproduktion encapsulated the theory that would lead Moholy-Nagy to the photogram technique. From 1923 he taught at the Weimar Bauhaus and started taking an interest in typography. In 1924, along with Gropius, he conceived the Bauhausbücher collection and the word ‘photogram’ appeared in one of its volumes for the first time to refer to ‘photographs without a camera’. 

During this time he experimented with new forms and techniques, using supports such as aluminum and materials such as cellulose. He always constructed his work with purely visual elements, apart from figuration: color, texture, light and the balance of forms were his main topics of research. 

He left the Bauhaus in 1928 and back in Berlin organized exhibitions and worked as a publicist and typographer. In 1929 he made his first film, Marseille Vieux Pont, as well as numerous photographs. In 1932 he exhibited for the first time with the Parisian Abstraction-Creation group. In 1934 he moved to Amsterdam and worked for the subsidiary of a large printing company, which enabled him to experiment with color photography. He also created and exhibited various stage sets. 

Fleeing the advance of the Nazis, he traveled to London in 1935 where he worked as a graphic artist, poster designer and window dresser. He then returned to painting, using supports such as troilite and silverite to create his three-dimensional ‘spatial modulators’. In 1936 he planned the special effects for the film Things to Come and the following year was appointed director of the New Bauhaus in Chicago. 

In 1942 he started work on his book Vision in Motion, an exhibition of his educational proposals. At that time, in response to the grants offered by the government to institutions that met the needs generated by the war, he got his students to work on camouflage designs and consumer products, which caused some controversy among the other teachers. Having been diagnosed with leukemia in the mid-1940s, his final years were marked by feverish artistic activity.   

Noemi de Haro