Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

Bácsbarsod/Ungarn 1895 – Chicago 1946


By the time László Moholy-Nagy turned towards painting after graduating from law school and developed his own abstract style influenced by Malewitsch and El Lissitzky, it was inevitable that he would become one of the most important artists of Constructivism. He soon exposed himself in Hungary as the founder of the artist group “Ma“, but left his home country after the failure of the revolution.

He moved to Berlin In 1920 where Gropius noticed him and invited him to join the “Bauhaus” in 1923. There Moholy-Nagy ran the metal class but also worked in all other areas of design in which he was equally influential. The artist published his ideas in the series of Bauhaus books, for example “Malerei, Fotografie, Film” (1925). Moholy-Nagy wanted an “experimental, functional artist […] who considers art as a laboratory for new forms of expression which were then supposed to be employed in all areas of modern life” (Karin Thomas).

The expectations of the age of technology and his new media led Moholy-Nagy to a functional use of Abstraction, which he managed to show in all areas of design and which guided him through different phases of experimenting. His varied oeuvre ranges from painting, photography, film, design and stage design to experiments with photograms which considerably influenced the development of light art and kinetic art. László Moholy-Nagy left the “Bauhaus” in 1928 together with Gropius and worked in Berlin as a stage designer, exhibition organiser, typographer and film producer. He emigrated to the USA in 1937 and ran the “New Bauhaus” in Chicago. Moholy-Nagy opened his own art institute, the “School of Design“, in Chicago in 1938 and enlarged it in the following years by adding the faculties economics, psychology and information theory.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy became severely ill and died one year later, in 1946.

Moholy-Nagy In the US

In 1937, at the invitation of Walter Paepcke, the Chairman of the Container Corporation of America, Moholy-Nagy moved to Chicago to become the director of the New Bauhaus. The philosophy of the school was basically unchanged from that of the original, and its headquarters was the Prairie Avenue mansion that architect Richard Morris Hunt designed for department store magnate Marshall Field.

Unfortunately, the school lost the financial backing of its supporters after only a single academic year, and it closed in 1938. Moholy-Nagy was also the Art Advisor for the mail-order house of Spiegel in Chicago. Paepcke, however, continued his own support, and in 1939, Moholy-Nagy opened the School of Design. In 1944, this became the Institute of Design. In 1949 the Institute of Design became a part of Illinois Institute of Technology and became the first institution in the United States to offer a PhD in design. Moholy-Nagy authored an account of his efforts to develop the curriculum of the School of Design in his book Vision in Motion.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy – Bibliography

  • Botar, Oliver A. I. “Technical Detours: The Early Moholy-Nagy Reconsidered”. New York: Art Gallery of the CUNY Graduate Center, 2006.
  • Borchardt-Hume, Achim. Albers and Moholy-Nagy: From the Bauhaus to the New World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.
  • Hight, Eleanor. Picturing Modernity: Moholy-Nagy and Photography in Weimar Germany. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995.
  • Lusk, Irene-Charlotte. Montagen ins Blaue: Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Fotomontagen und -collagen 1922-1943. Gießen: Anabas, 1980.
  • Margolin, Victor. The Struggle for Utopia: Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy, 1917-1946. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
  • Moholy-Nagy, Lázló. Painting Photography Film. 1925. Trans. Janet Seligman. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1973.
  • Passuth, Krisztina. Moholy-Nagy. Trans. London: Thames and Hudson, 1985.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

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