1895 – 1946 : László Moholy-Nagy was born in 1895 in Borsód (now Bácsborsód). As a young man his ambition was to be a writer and he published his poems in the local newspaper of Szeged, the town where he went to school. On obtaining his baccalaureate in 1913, he followed his uncle’s advice and moved to Budapest to study law. This was interrupted by the outbreak of law a year later. In 1915 he enrolled in the Austro-Hungarian artillery. On the front, he made his first drawings on military postcards, which he then sent to friends and family. After the war he met Lajos Kassák and the circle of activist artists contributing to MA. He also became close to the left-wing intellectuals who shared similar views about the role of progressive art in social life. After the fall of the Republic of Councils, he left Hungary, like many of his fellow countrymen, and travelled via Vienna to Berlin, where he discovered Dadaism.
In this new capital of the avant-gardes, fascinated by the revolutionary trends coming out of Russia, he found new sources of inspiration. In 1921 he became the Berlin correspondent for MA. The first issue he was asked to edit – about Russian sculptor Alexander Archipenko – constituted a turning point in the review’s history. Thanks to Moholy-Nagy’s contacts, MA became a truly international periodical. In 1922 their relations with foreign artists enabled Kassák and his collaborator to publish the Buch Neuer Kunstler (Book of New Artists), an anthology ranging from the modernists of the turn of the century up to the Soviet masters of Constructivism.
During the same period, Moholy-Nagy was also interested in the formal problems of abstract geometric planes and, also, in dynamism and the role of the artist-architect championed by the Russian Constructivists. In his work, Moholy-Nagy sought to bring out the supra-individualist character of the Constructivist concept, the existence of objective visual values that were independent of the artist’s inspiration and personal way of painting.
This logic was illustrated by the paintings he ordered over the telephone and exhibited at Der Sturm gallery in February 1922. They showed that an artwork did not need to be the direct result of the artist’s hand or skill, and that it could be reproduced ad infinitum. In the same year he was spotted by Walter Gropius who saw him as an artist capable of contributing to the conceptual and structural renovation of the Bauhaus. In Weimar he ran the metal workshop and directed the Vorkurs (foundation course), a responsibility he took over from Johannes Itten.
He became increasingly interested in modern media: photography (his wife Lucia was an excellent photographer and taught him the technique) and cinema, whose vocabulary he renewed. Walter Gropius left Weimar and the Bauhaus in 1928 and Moholy-Nagy followed shortly afterwards. Up to 1938 he was working in Berlin, Amsterdam and London, while exhibiting with the Abstraction Création group, and still contributing to various avant-garde reviews (such as i10, Kornuk, Dokumentum, Munka and Telehor). He continued his experiments with cinema and his work as an advertising designer, typographer and architect. In 1937 he went to join Gropius in Chicago at the latter’s request. In America, he set up the New Bauhaus which he reopened as the School of Design in 1939 (it later became the Institute of Design), where he worked up to his death in 1946.