Lászlo Moholy-Nagy

November 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Figure 1 - Portrait of Lászlo Moholy-Nagy

Figure 1 - Portrait of Lászlo Moholy-Nagy

Lászlo Moholy-Nagy (Figure 1) was an influential artist of Bauhaus. He was a film maker, designer, painter, writer, educator and photographer. He was born in Bacsbarsod, Hungary July 20, 1895. As a kid he was publishing poetry in native little magazines. When he was 18 he studied law at the University of Budapest. He was a good student but he had to stop the studies because the first World War started.

In the year 1915 Moholy joined army as a artillery officer. That was the time when he really started painting. He created about four hundred drawings on a letters from his correspondence during the war (Figure 2). In one of the fights during the war in 1917 he got shot and he was sent back to Budapest where he was recovering from the injury. After he recovered from the injury he was thinking to become the artist and his friend Ivan Hevesy supported him in his artistic development.

Figure 2 - Drawing of Jolan Simon by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

Figure 2 - Drawing of Jolan Simon by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

In 1918 Moholy signed up to a evening classes on a art school of Robert Bereny and there he had his first exhibitions. He was interested in a photography. Big credit comes to Moholy’s girlfriend who was a photographer and introduced Moholy this area. He moved to Berlin and from 1921 as is stated by Naylor (1968, p. 78) he worked there as an editor of avant-garde Hungarian art journal MA. There he met Russian artists El Lissitzky, Ilya Ehrenburg and later Gabo. He was impressed of their work and in 1922 he attended the Constructivism conference in Weimar.

As is stated by Vincent (1997, p. 320) “in 1922 Herwarth Walden sponsored his first Berlin exhibition. Intrigued by Moholy’s work, Walter Gropius invited him to the Bauhaus. For five years (1923– 1928) he coedited the school’s publications, directed its metal workshop, and, when Johannes Itten departed, taught its preparatory course. When the Bauhaus relocated to Dessau in 1925, he helped design its new facilities (Figure 3).” The Bauhaus was an institution, which was very influential for its time.

Figure 3 - Bauhaus balconies. Photo by Moholy-Nagy

Figure 3 - Bauhaus balconies. Photo by Moholy-Nagy

Moholy-Nagy joined the Bauhaus in Weimar as a professor in 1923. He was put in charge of the Metal Workshop. His teaching helped school to lean more to a modernism style, which Moholy supported. He also wanted artists to be involved in more fields like a typography, photography, painting and industrial design. For me this variety looks like a great think to have complex knowledge about the designed item. Because every designer has to think about all these things, to produce a great piece.

Figure 4 - Geometrical painting. Oil on canvas

Figure 4 - Geometrical painting. Oil on canvas by Lászlo Moholy-Nagy

He was experimenting a lot with the light. He was interested in photograms (Figure 5). That means that he was placing objects onto a light sensitive paper in a various compositions. After he exposed the paper for a short time he developed the paper and the photogram was done. I like his feeling for choosing new materials for his creative work. He was one of the first persons who were using plexiglas and other translucent objects in a photography. But for me the shapes of of his pictograms looks like little chaotic compare to his geometrical paintings which were influenced by constructivism.

Figure 4 - Photogram by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

Figure 5 - Photogram by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

He had a passion for a new materials how is written by Naylor (1968, p.109) “Moholy, who believed that ‘mathematically harmonious shapes, executed precisely, are filled with emotional quality and represent the perfect balance between feeling and intellect’ was fascinated by interplay of light and space, positive and negative, colour, transparency and the juxtaposition of textures.”

“Typography must be clear communication in its most vivid form. Clarity must be especial stressed, for clarity is the essence of modern printing. Therefore first of all: absolute clarity in all typographycal work… A new typography language must be created combining elasticity, variety and a fresh approach to teh materials of printing, a language whose logic depends on the appropriate application of the processes of printing.” Naylor (1968, p.127)

When in the year 1928 Gropius resigned as a director of Bauhaus, Moholy also left the school due to the rising political pressure and returned back to a Berlin. He worked there as a successful freelancer by designing a stage sets for a Berlin theaters. He was interested in a commercial design by designing posters (Figure 6) and book covers.

Figure 5 - Commercial poster - Quickly Away, Thanks To Pneumatic Doors

Figure 6 - Commercial poster - Quickly Away, Thanks To Pneumatic Doors

His further life is described by Vincent (1997, p. 321) “In 1934 he left Germany and, after working in industrial design in Holland and England, moved to the United States in 1937.” It was a good decision to move to United States where he had more freedom for his work. Because in Germany and all Europe the political pressure was enormous and everything had to be under the control of Nazi’s.

He was a co-founder of the New Bauhaus in Chicago in 1937 but it had to be closed after a year due to a financial difficulties. Due to Kostelanetz (1970, p. xvii) “In 1938 opened his own School of design at 247 East Ontario Street, Chicago, with much of the New Bauhaus staff. In 1939 he began work as a designer and advisor for Spiegel, Inc., the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the Parker Pen Co., and others.”

Bauhaus was a progressive movement in the design history. But unfortunately it was two times stopped by the wars. And the Bauhaus in Germany ended in 1933 when Nazis closed the school in Berlin. And the New Bauhaus in Chicago was slowed down due to a great depression after the war. Who knows what Moholy-Nagy and his friends could develop if there was no war.

Lászlo Moholy-Nagy died of leukemia in Chicago on November 24 1946. At the time of his death he was a president of the Institute of Design.


Kostelanetz, R. (ed.) (1970) Moholy-Nagy Documentary Monographs in Modern Art. New York: Praeger Publishers, Inc..

Naylor, G. (1968) the bauhaus. London: Studio Vista Limited.

Vincent, C. Paul (19997) Historical Dictionary of Germany’s Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. Westport: Greenwood Press.


Figure 1
The Museum of Modern Art (1926) Untitled. Lucia Moholy [Online] Available at: http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?criteria=O%3AAD%3AE%3A6922&page_number=1&template_id=1&sort_order=1 (Accessed: 30 November 2010).

Figure 2
The Museum of Modern Art (1919-1920) Jolan Simon. Lucia Moholy [Online] Available at: http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?criteria=O%3AAD%3AE%3A4048&page_number=5&template_id=1&sort_order=1 (Accessed: 30 November 2010).

Figure 3
Moholy-Nagy, L. (1926) Bauhaus Balconies. [Online] Available at: http://www.geh.org/fm/amico99/htmlsrc2/m198121630007_ful.html#topofimage (Accessed: 30 November 2010).

Figure 4
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1924) A II. Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection [Online] Available at: http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/show-full/piece/?search=László%20Moholy-Nagy&page=1&f=People&cr=1 (Accessed: 30 November 2010).

Figure 5
Moholy-Nagy, L. (1939) Photogram. [Online] Available at: http://www.geh.org/fm/amico99/htmlsrc2/m198121630013_ful.html#topofimage (Accessed: 30 November 2010).

Figure 6

The Museum of Modern Art (1937) Quickly Away, Thanks To Pneumatic Doors. Moholy-Nagy, L. [Online] Available at: http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?criteria=O%3AAD%3AE%3A4048&page_number=91&template_id=1&sort_order=1 (Accessed: 30 November 2010).


camaradeniebla (2009) Laszlo Moholy Nagy Ein Lichtspiel Schwarz Weiss Grau. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymrJLhSeIlk (Accessed: 30 November 2010).

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