Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

1895-1946

About

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was born on July 20 in Bácsborsód, Hungary. His first interest was law and studied at Budapest University. He served in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I and realized quickly that neither law nor military suited him. By the young age of twenty-one, while suffering from war wounds, he wrote a poem that would be the basis of all his future art.

He wrote, “Space, time, matter – are they on with light, conditioned by light as you are conditioned by life?…Light, ordering, leading, light shining so unattainably as reflection, illuminating pure being, flow into me, light, you proud, sharp light, you wild light, that purifies my eyes….Matter, space and time in contours of light, in eternal light, light as the power that creates. And insignificance, so conceitedly equated with time and space, surrounds the darkness of man. Only light, total light makes him complete.”

Upon his release from the army, Moholy-Nagy briefly continued his study of law, but took evening classes in life drawing and soon withdrew from Budapest University , moved to Vienna and joined a group of artists. Although he had taken a class, Moholy-Nagy knew very little about art. “MA”, a group of artists and activists whose aims were of the radical kind, became Moholy-Nagy’s teachers. Six weeks after moving to Vienna , Moholy-Nagy moved to Berlin and joined the Dada circle of artists. He also met his future wife, Lucia Schulz. They married on January 18, 19 21. Drawing, painting and sculpture were Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s first artistic outlet and soon he was being published and exhibited. His paintings and drawings resembled the Russian Constructivism, where naturalism was shunned and color and form were explored. Moholy-Nagy’s studio became a popular meeting place; he co-authored the “Aufruf zur elementaren Kunst” (Manifesto of Elemental Art) and began his writing career. By 1922 he had initiated his experiments in photography, his first experiments were with photograms, and wrote his first article about photography in July, “Produktion-Reproduction”. His work with photograms was in collaboration with his wife and his friend, Man Ray. Just a year later, he was invited to teach at the Bauhaus School in Weimar, Germany.

Inspired by the possibilities of the photogram, in 1924 Laszlo Moholy-Nagy began his work with his now-famous photomontages. He also published fourteen volumes of “Bauhausbücher, which was comprised of information about art and architecture in Europe during the 1920s. The eighth volume was dedicated to photography, which he named “Fotografie”. Although some of the Bauhaus school teachers and students were conflicted with Moholy-Nagy’s teaching style, he remained at the school for several years, even after it was closed and reopened in Dessau with a complete darkroom.

In 1926 Moholy-Nagy completed his first film, “Berliner Stilleben” (Berlin Still Life). He also began his work as the film and photography editor for i 10 International Revue , published in Amsterdam. He also wrote for the Bauhaus journal and published an article titled “Fotografie ist Lichtgestaltung” (Photography is Creation with Light), but soon left his position at the school and started his career as a commercial artist in Berlin. He continued to publish, produce art photography and exhibit, write and produce films until his death in 1945.

He and Lucia separated in 1929 and they eventually divorced in 1934. A year later he married Sibyl Pietzsch and they had two daughters, Hattula and Claudia. They moved to Chicago in 1936 where Moholy-Nagy became the director of the New Bauhaus, School of Design, later known as the School of Design in Chicago. A painter, sculptor, photographer, writer, filmmaker and teacher; Moholy-Nagy worked at the New Bauhaus, School of Design until his death in 1946. He died from leukemia in Chicago . His book Vision in Motion was published in 1947. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum in 1984 for his contribution to the history of photography. His innovative thinking and style promoted and advanced the appreciation for photography as an art.

“He ignored traditional distinctions between graphic and photographic expression, between art for self-expression and for utility, and between practice and theory to work creatively in all the styles and media of his choice” wrote Naomi Rosenblum. She continues, “as a writer and teacher, he explored many of the unconventional areas of visual activity that continue to engage artists…Moholy-Nagy’s photographic output spanned the entire range of ideas, processes, and techniques embraced by the concept of the “new vision,” which he helped to formulate.”

By Lori Oden For IPHF

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