László Moholy-Nagy, the genius of all media: his artistic work oscillated between photography, film and light experiments. His pedagogical approach was that of the self-taught artist who is not content with just one medium and one style, and he lived it himself – at the Bauhaus and at the New Bauhaus in Chicago.
László Moholy-Nagy first studied law in Budapest in 1913. From 1914 to 1917, while completing his military service and staying in a military hospital, he produced his first drawings. Later the same year, he attended evening classes in figure drawing at a free art school in Szeged, Hungary. The following year, he quit his law studies. He subsequently worked as a painter and took evening classes in life drawing at a free art school in Budapest. At the same time, he was in contact with the avant-garde group MA. Moholy-Nagy relocated to Berlin in 1920 and cultivated contacts with the Dadaists Kurt Schwitters and Hannah Höch as well as with Herwarth Walden’s gallery Der Sturm. He married Lucia Schulz in 1921. In 1922, a first solo exhibition of Moholy-Nagy’s work was held in Walden’s gallery. He met Walter Gropius through the art and architecture critic Adolf Behne. In the same year, he participated in the first Constructivist congress in Weimar.
In March 1923, Walter Gropius appointed him as a master at the Staatliches Bauhaus Weimar. Here, his work centred on typographic design and experimental film. From 1923 to 1925, Moholy-Nagy was the director of the preliminary course and head of the metal workshop in Weimar. From 1925 to 1928, he resumed the same posts in Dessau. Together with Walter Gropius, Moholy-Nagy began to publish the series of Bauhaus Books.
Moholy-Nagy left the Bauhaus after five years in 1928 and established his own studio for typography, exhibition design, photomontage and photo collage in Berlin. Here, in 1929, he created set designs for the Kroll-Oper and Piscator’s theatre. His books Malerei, Photographie, Film and Von Material zu Architektur were published in 1925 and 1929. In 1930, his Light-Space-Modulator, which was designed in 1922, was exhibited for the first time in Paris. He also exhibited in the Deutscher Werkbund (German Work Federation) exhibition Film und Foto in Stuttgart. In 1933, he participated in the 4th CIAM Congress (Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne) in Athens. A year later, he emigrated to Amsterdam and then to London. During this time, he exhibited with the art group Abstraction–Création in Paris. In London in 1935-36, he began working as a graphic designer and received commissions for documentary films. On Walter Gropius’s recommendation, he was made director of the planned New Bauhaus – American School of Design in Chicago in 1937. However, the school was forced to close as early as 1938 for financial reasons. In 1939, Moholy-Nagy founded the successor to the School of Design in Chicago, which was restructured in 1944 as the Institute of Design and is now part of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). Moholy-Nagy also worked as a freelance artist and designer until his death in 1946.
Borchardt-Hume, Achim (2006): Albers and Moholy-Nagy: From Bauhaus to the New World, London.
Fiedler, Jeannine (2001): László Moholy-Nagy, Berlin.
Molderings, Herbert, Renate Heyne & Floris M. Neusüss (2009): Moholy-Nagy. The Photograms. Catalogue Raisonné, Ostfildern.
Otto, Elisabeth (2009): A 'Schooling of the Senses': Post-Dada Visual Experiments in the Bauhaus Photomontages of László Moholy-Nagy and Marianne Brandt, in: NEC: New German Critique, 107, p. 89-131.
Pfeiffer, Ingrid (2009): László Moholy-Nagy. Retrospektive, Munich.