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Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

Hungarian-American Designer, Filmmaker, Painter, Photographer, Sculptor, and Theoretician

Movement: Bauhaus

Born: July 20, 1895 - Borsod, Austria-Hungary

Died: November 24, 1946 - Chicago, Illinois

Important Art by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

The below artworks are the most important by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.


Photogram (1926)

Artwork description & Analysis: Moholy-Nagy was fascinated by light throughout his career, and photograms offered the opportunity to experiment with the subtlety of light and shade. To create the photogram, he laid everyday objects on light-sensitive paper before exposing them to light. The brightness of the object's silhouette depended on the exposure time - a longer exposure meant a brighter image. In this photogram a paintbrush lays over Moholy-Nagy's hands, perhaps slyly suggesting the photogram is a medium of art that rivals painting.

Gelatin silver print - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Composition A 19 (1927)

Artwork description & Analysis: Moholy-Nagy's first abstract paintings featured opaque geometric shapes reminiscent of Kazimir Malevich's Suprematist paintings, yet Composition A 19 shows him developing beyond that style into new interests in light and the transparency of forms. The cross motif that appeared in his earlier paintings is here enlarged and doubled, the red and black crossbeams overlapping each other with varying levels of translucency.

Oil on canvas - Private Collection


Bauhausbucher 8, Malerei, Fotografie, Film (1927)

Artwork description & Analysis: Moholy-Nagy was responsible for the typography and graphic design of all but three of the Bauhaus books. His primary concern for the design was the rational organization of space. He employed clean lines and typeface to achieve this effect. These designs were his first real exploration of graphic design, which he pursued further in posters and ads after he resigned from the Bauhaus.

Letterpress printed book - Museum of Modern Art, New York


Lightplay Black-White-Gray, 1930 (1930)

Artwork description & Analysis: Moholy-Nagy worked with engineer Istvan Sebok and technician Otto Ball to realize his vision for Light Prop for an Electric Stage, also known as the Light Space Modulator, the sculpture featured in this film. Uniting the artist's enthusiasm for the look of machines and for material innovation, it is one of the most famous early examples of kinetic art. It went on to be presented as a freestanding, immobile sculpture and as a device in his experimental theatre and in this short experimental film, in which it is shot from different vantage points. The film captures the reflections and shadows created by the spinning sculpture, at times giving the impression of a functioning machine, a factory, or even an urban landscape.

16 mm black and white film, silent - Hattula Moholy-Nagy

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Stage Set, Tales of Hoffmann (1929)

Artwork description & Analysis: Moholy-Nagy's first set design after leaving the Bauhaus was for the Krolloper's production of the Tales of Hoffmann. The opera is typically produced with lavish sets and costumes, but Moholy-Nagy's simple design defies expectations in its use of contemporary urban elements such as stainless steel cots and plain white walls. Moholy-Nagy stated in an interview, "Let us test the staying power of so-called great music by having fun with its trappings. If we insist on grand opera, let us see it as contemporaries."

Silver gelatin print - George Eastman House, Rochester, New York


Double Loop (1946)

Artwork description & Analysis: After exploring light through the media of painting, film, and photography, Moholy-Nagy investigated its properties through transparent sculpture. He abandoned the geometric forms of his earlier work for biomorphic curves. Since his incisions in the Plexiglass could not be corrected, his swooping lines were especially daring. Moholy-Nagy was seriously ill when he made Double Loop, but the freedom of the dynamic form betrays nothing of his doubt or fear of death.

Plexiglass - Museum of Modern Art, New York



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Related Art and Artists


The Runner (1930)

Artist: El Lissitzky

Artwork description & Analysis: Lissitzky once wrote of photography, "...photography possesses properties not available to painting. These properties lie in the photographic material itself and it is essential for us to develop them in order to make photography truly into art." With The Runner, Lissitzky converted his 1926 gelatin silver print Runner in the City into a stunning new visual reference to the modern celebration of speed and dynamism by splicing the photo into equal, vertical sections. The segmented photo mimics the effect of perceiving objects in motion (the objects are moving and/or the viewer is also in motion): there is a sense of visual fragmentation as one glimpses the parts rather than the whole. Lissitzky's effort to make a form of media then considered trivial into high art was in fact another evolutionary step for the artist's own Constructivist style. The prevailing idea was to construct something grand and utterly new, and in this sense, the very notion of photography as a pure art form, or what the Soviets regarded as a "medium for enlightenment," was something truly avant-garde.

Photomontage - State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow


Black Square (c. 1915)

Artist: Kazimir Malevich

Artwork description & Analysis: Now badly cracked, the iconic Black Square was shown by Malevich in the 0.10 exhibition in Petrograd in 1915. This piece epitomized the theoretical principles of Suprematism developed by Malevich in his 1915 essay From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism: The New Realism in Painting. Although earlier Malevich had been influenced by Cubism, he believed that the Cubists had not taken abstraction far enough. Thus, here the purely abstract shape of the black square (painted before the white background) is the single pictorial element in the composition. Even though the painting seems simple, there are such subtleties as brushstrokes, fingerprints, and colors visible underneath the cracked black layer of paint. If nothing else, one can distinguish the visual weight of the black square, the sense of an "image" against a background, and the tension around the edges of the square. But according to Malevich, the perception of such forms should always be free of logic and reason, for the absolute truth can only be realized through pure feeling. For the artist, the square represented feelings, and the white, nothingness. Additionally, Malevich saw the black square as a kind of godlike presence, an icon - or even the godlike quality in himself. In fact, Black Square was to become the new holy image for non-representational art. Even at the exhibition it was hung in the corner where an Orthodox icon would traditionally be placed in the Russian home.

Oil on canvas - Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow


Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Gray, and Blue (1921)

Artist: Piet Mondrian

Artwork description & Analysis: In the 1920s, Mondrian began to create the definitive abstract paintings for which he is best known. He limited his palette to white, black, gray, and the three primary colors, with the composition constructed from thick, black horizontal and vertical lines that delineated the outlines of the various rectangles of color or reserve. The simplification of the pictorial elements was essential for Mondrian's creation of a new abstract art, distinct from Cubism and Futurism. The assorted blocks of color and lines of differing width create rhythms that ebb and flow across the surface of the canvas, echoing the varied rhythm of modern life. The composition is asymmetrical, as in all of his mature paintings, with one large dominant block of color, here red, balanced by distribution of the smaller blocks of yellow, blue gray, and white around it. This style has been quoted by many artists and designers in all aspects of culture since the 1920s.

Oil on canvas - Gemeentemuseum, The Hague

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