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László Moholy-Nagy

László Moholy-Nagy

The Hungarian painter, designer, and teacher László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) was one of the leading figures in the Bauhaus and was highly instrumental in bringing its ideas to the United States.

László Moholy-Nagy was born on July 20, 1895, in Bacsbarsod. He studied law before becoming interested in painting. In 1919 he discovered the work of the Russian constructivists El Lissitzky and Kasimir Malevich, whose lifelong influence can be seen in Moholy-Nagy's paintings with the characteristic severe patterns of rectangles and other geometric shapes scattered sparsely over a plain background.

In 1921 Moholy-Nagy moved to Berlin. His paintings were now completely nonobjective, and he began to study the function and effect of light, which became one of his main continuing interests. Combined with this was his enthusiasm for the potential uses of the new plastic materials. Like Marcel Duchamp, he began to question the traditional involvement of the artist's hand in his own work. In 1922 Moholy-Nagy came up with a brilliant and audacious idea: he had five paintings made for him by a factory. He telephoned the factory and described what he wanted, using the factory's color chart and graph paper. As Duchamp did with his ready-mades, Moholy-Nagy claimed the five paintings as his because he had thought of them rather than actually made them by his own hand.

Moholy-Nagy's interests in a new relationship between the artist and his art, his investigations into the use of light, and his use of new materials made him a very suitable member of the Bauhaus, where he went to teach in 1923. The Bauhaus had been founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius to provide a new sort of artistic training, where the artist no longer had to choose between art and design but was instead given an all-round education which would allow him to use his knowledge of art and materials to make a more functional art, often involved in industrial design.

Moholy-Nagy taught the introductory course at the Bauhaus and helped turn it away from its preoccupation with mysticism and intuitive philosophy and toward a more practical and tightly controlled emphasis on materials and their potential and function. He was peculiarly adept at fusing theory and practice and was thus highly successful at both teaching and writing. In 1928 he left the Bauhaus and executed stage designs in Berlin, using his Bauhaus-evolved ideas of space and light. During a short stay in London he produced a number of documentary films.

In 1937 Moholy-Nagy went to Chicago, where he directed the New Bauhaus for a year and then set up his own School of Design, which he ran on Bauhaus principles until his death in Chicago on Nov. 24, 1946. An extraordinarily idealistic man, he passionately believed in his own concepts of design and teaching and worked feverishly to accomplish his aims. It is in large part owing to him that the Bauhaus ideas so thoroughly infused American design.

Further Reading

Moholy-Nagy's own writings are very epigrammatic and perhaps provide a more exciting picture of the potential of his ideas than do his artistic productions. His The New Vision (1928) and Vision in Motion (1947) give a fine sense of his liveliness of mind and wide-ranging interests. An extremely touching and very informative book is the biography by his wife, Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy: Experiment in Totality (1950; 2d ed. 1969).

Additional Sources

Kaplan, Louis, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy: biographical writings, Durham: Duke University Press, 1995. □

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Moholy-Nagy, László

László Moholy-Nagy (lä´slō mô´hôlē-nŏ´dyə), 1895–1946, Hungarian painter, designer, and experimental photographer. He turned to art after studying law. While living in Berlin he was one of the founders of constructivism, experimenting with photograms and translucent materials. As a professor in the newly opened Bauhaus from 1923 to 1928, Moholy-Nagy was coeditor with Walter Gropius of the school's regular publications. While there he experimented with a form of kinetic art, which he called "light space modulators," a stunning array of motor-driven shapes that he illuminated to produce elaborate shadows on the nearby walls. He worked in Berlin until 1934 as a typographer and designer of stage sets. In 1937 he directed the Bauhaus School of Design in Chicago until it failed (1938). Thereafter he opened the Chicago Institute of Design, which he headed until his death. His greatest contribution to modern art lay in his teaching, which deeply influenced American commercial and industrial design. He was the author of The New Vision (tr. 1928) and Vision in Motion (1947).

See study by S. Moholy-Nagy, his wife (1950); R. Heyne and F. M. Neusüss, ed., Moholy-Nagy: The Photograms (2010); Moholy: An Education of the Senses (museum catalog, 2010).

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Moholy-Nagy, László

Moholy-Nagy, László (1895–1946). Hungarian-born American artist, theorist, and teacher. An important figure in the Bauhaus and supporter of Gropius, he not only was one of the editors of Bauhaus publications, but wrote two of them himself, including the influential Von Material zu Architektur (From Material to Architecture—1929). He went into practice as a freelance designer after Hannes Meyer took over in 1928.

Bibliography

Jane Turner (1996)

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"Moholy-Nagy, László." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Moholy-Nagy, László." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/moholy-nagy-laszlo

"Moholy-Nagy, László." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/moholy-nagy-laszlo

Moholy-Nagy, László

Moholy-Nagy, László (1895–1946) Hungarian designer, painter and sculptor. He was one of the most influential founders of constructivism. Moholy-Nagy taught at the Bauhaus (1923–28), before working in Berlin as a stage designer and film-maker. He then moved to Paris, Amsterdam, and London. In 1937, he emigrated to the USA and became director of the short-lived New Bauhaus.

http://www.geh.org/photographers.html; http://www.getty.edu

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