László Moholy-Nagy American, b. Austria-Hungary, 1895-1946
László Moholy-Nagy was an avant-garde painter, photographer, filmmaker, writer, and stage and graphic designer known for his experimental approach. He was also an influential teacher and advocate of the "new photography," the international movement that achieved prominence in Europe after World War I.
Moholy-Nagy (born in Bácsborsod) studied law at the University of Budapest (1914) and served in the Austro-Hungarian army during the war (1915-17). Wounded, he became interested in art during his convalescence and, although briefly resuming his law studies, decided to pursue a career in the arts. In late 1919 he moved to Vienna, then settled in Berlin, where he became associated with the dadaists and other avant-garde artists. He took part in his first exhibition in 1922 at the Berlin gallery Der Sturm, showing abstract paintings and metal sculpture. That same year he and his wife, Lucia Moholy, began investigating photograms (cameraless photographs) and over the next several years would continue to experiment, producing negative prints, photomontages, photocollages, and photographs taken from a variety of viewpoints and angles.
In 1923 Walter Gropius invited Moholy-Nagy to head the metal workshop at the Bauhaus in Weimar. Moholy-Nagy also taught the school's introductory course and collaborated with his wife and Gropius to edit several volumes in the Bauhausbücher (Bauhaus Books) series. In 1925 he published his influential book Malerei, Photographie, Film (Painting, Photography, Film) and the following year completed his first film, Berliner Stilleben (Berlin Still Life).
Moholy-Nagy left the Bauhaus in 1928 following the resignation of Gropius and moved to Berlin to work as a commercial artist, specializing in stage and graphic design, as well as in film. The following year he published Von Material zu Architektur (published in translation as The New Vision: From Material to Architecture, 1930) and helped organize Film und Foto, the well-known exhibition of avant-garde photography and film held in Stuttgart. He also exhibited more than 90 photographs in the show.
Following his 1932 divorce and the Nazi rise to power in Germany, Moholy-Nagy immigrated to Amsterdam (1934) and then England (1935). He was invited to Chicago in 1937 to found the New Bauhaus (reorganized as the Chicago School of Design in 1939 and then renamed the Institute of Design in 1944). Moholy-Nagy directed the school until 1946, when he died of leukemia. M.M.