Born Laszlo Weisz on July 20, 1895 in Bacsborsod, Hungary (Austria-Hungary), his pursuit of a law career was temporarily derailed by World War I. While serving as an artillery officer in the Hungarian army, he was wounded in Russia near war's end. During his convalescence, be began sketching portraits and landscapes. After completing his law studies, he began painting and adopted a style that appeared to be strongly influenced by Russian abstract painter Kazimir Malevich. At around this time, he changed his surname to a less Jewish-sounding "Moholy-Nagy".
In 1920, he moved to Berlin where he opened a studio that quickly became a popular creative haven for an avant-garde artist community that included El Lissitzky, Theo van Doesburg, and Kurt Schwitters. Mr. Moholy-Nagy married Lucia Schulz in January 1921, and the following year, he held his first painting exhibition. When Johannes Itten announced his retirement from the State Bauhaus (school of fine arts) in 1923, founder Walter Gropius chose Mr. Moholy-Nagy to be his successor. At around the same time, he began experimenting with photography, and the "photograms" he exhibited were reminiscent of Man Ray's "rayograph" techniques of producing images on light-sensitive paper without a camera. He wrote several articles on the experimental process, and his text Malerei, Photographie, Film, was published in 1925. After leaving Bauhaus in 1928, Mr. Moholy-Nagy organized Foto-Auge, which studied the latest developments in still and motion photography. His style evolved from photograms, to photographs, and finally into his trademark photomontage. He viewed photomontage as more liberating than the conventional 'straight photography' being practiced in the United States at that time. Mr. Moholy-Nagy consistently defied critics who valued technical precision above imaginative and somewhat distorted visual images.
After divorcing his first wife, he married German actress/screenwriter (and future art historian Sibylle Pietzsch, with whom he would have two daughters. He immigrated to London, where he was working as a commercial designer when he was invited to become director of Chicago's New Bauhaus design school. It closed after one year, but Mr. Moholy-Nagy remained in Chicago and became the director of the School of Design, now known as the IIT Institute of Design. He was diagnosed with leukemia in 1945, and died on November 24, 1946 at the age of 51. Today, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy is fondly remembered for bringing photography into the twentieth century, where modern creativity was emphasized over historical rigidity. He once observed, "The enemy of photography is the convention, the fixed rules of 'how to do'. The salvation of photography comes from the experiment."
2013 Fifty Key Writers on Photography by Mark Durden (New York: Routledge), p. 169.
1995 In Focus: Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum), pp. 6, 124.
2016 Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (URL: http://www.atgetphotography.com/The-Photographers/Laszlo-Moholy-Nagy.html).
2004 Pioneers of Modern Typography by Herbert Spencer (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press), p. 141.
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