Lucia Moholy – this name is synonymous with Bauhaus photography. Her photos of the Bauhaus building, the Masters’ Houses and the Bauhaus range of products lastingly have shaped the image of the art school to this day. The visual fascination of her images has made Moholy an icon of modern photography.

Self-portrait, Lucia Moholy, 1930. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016.
Self-portrait, Lucia Moholy, 1930. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016.

In 1912, Lucia Schulz qualified as a German and English teacher and moved on to university, studying art history and philosophy in Prague. From 1915 to 1918, she worked as an editor and copy editor for a number of publishing houses, including Hyperion and Kurt Wolff in Berlin. In 1919, she stayed in Heinrich Vogeler’s Barkenhoff (lit: Birch-tree cottage) in Worpswede near Bremen. She published Expressionist literature under the pseudonym Ulrich Steffen. In 1920, she became editor of the publishing house Rowohlt in Berlin. The following year, she married László Moholy-Nagy, who would go on to become a Bauhaus master. From 1922 to 1923, they worked together in the field of experimental photography.

Coffee and Tea Set, design: Marianne Brandt / photo: Lucia Moholy, 1924. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016.
Coffee and Tea Set, design: Marianne Brandt / photo: Lucia Moholy, 1924. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016.

With her husband appointed to the Bauhaus Weimar in 1923, Moholy began an apprenticeship in one of its photography studios and at the same time photographed objects produced in the Bauhaus workshops for publications. From 1923 to 1925, she worked as a freelance photographer at the Bauhaus Weimar, resuming the same post at the Bauhaus Dessau from 1925 to 1928. From 1925 to 1926, she studied photographic and printing techniques at the Akademie für grafische Künste und Buchgewerbe Leipzig (Academy of Visual Arts, Leipzig).

Photograph of a Study in Balance from the preliminary course by Moholy-Nagy, author: Johannes Zabel / photo: Lucia Moholy, 1923–1924. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016.
Photograph of a Study in Balance from the preliminary course by Moholy-Nagy, author: Johannes Zabel / photo: Lucia Moholy, 1923–1924. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016.

Her important works from this period include a comprehensive photo series on the new Bauhaus Building and the Masters’ Houses in Dessau for the press and for the Bauhaus Books, which established her as an authentic voice in the process of documenting the Bauhaus by 1928. During this period, she also produced photographs of objects made in the workshops and portrait series of the Bauhaus’s teachers and friends.

Bauhaus building Dessau, architecture: Walter Gropius / photo: Lucia Moholy, 1926. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016.
Bauhaus building Dessau, architecture: Walter Gropius / photo: Lucia Moholy, 1926. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016.

After leaving the Bauhaus in 1928, she worked with the photographic agency Mauritius and was represented at the Deutscher Werkbund (German Work Federation) exhibition Film und Foto in Stuttgart in 1929. She separated from her husband the same year. As the successor of Otto Umbehr (Umbo), she was hired as a specialist subject teacher for photography at Johannes Itten’s school in Berlin. In 1933, she emigrated via Prague, Vienna and Paris to London and worked there as a portrait photographer and author. In the following years, she directed documentary films for numerous important archives and UNESCO projects in the Near and Middle East. After relocating to Switzerland in 1959, she worked in publishing, focusing on art criticism and art education, and participated in many exhibitions.

Masters’ Houses, semi-detached house Kandinsky-Klee from north-west, architecture: Walter Gropius / photo: Lucia Moholy, 1926. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016.
Masters’ Houses, semi-detached house Kandinsky-Klee from north-west, architecture: Walter Gropius / photo: Lucia Moholy, 1926. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016.

Literature:
Fiedler, Jeannine (1990): Photography at the Bauhaus, Cambridge, Mass.
Guttenberger, Anja for Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin (2015): bauhaus.foto / bauhaus.photo, Berlin.
Hartmann, Sabine (1995): Lucia Moholy − Bauhaus-Fotografin, in: Museums Journal, No. 2, Berlin.
Sachsse, Rolf (1995): Lucia Moholy. Bauhaus-Fotografin, Berlin.
Schöbe, Lutz (2004): Bauhaus. Fotografie aus der Sammlung der Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau, Florence.
Valdivieso, Mercedes (2000): Eine 'symbiotische Arbeitsgemeinschaft' und die Folgen - Lucia und László Moholy-Nagy, in: Berger, R. (ed.): Liebe Macht Kunst. Künstlerpaare im 20. Jahrhundert, Cologne/Weimar/Vienna, p. 65–85.