Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
MS78 Records undated, 1934-1946

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy Records
in the Archives of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


Inventory prepared by Sarah Shipley


Archives, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


P.O. Box 6826; Houston, TX 77265-6826



Summary Information




Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

Inclusive Dates:

undated, 1934-1946


.25 linear feet + oversized


This collection includes notes written by Moholy-Nagy as well as annotated drafts and proofs of materials for publication.

Call Number:



Materials are in English, German


Archives, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
P.O. Box 6826; Houston, TX 77265-6826

Access and Use

Acquisition Information:
Gift of the Prospero Foundation.

Access Restrictions:
Physical restrictions imposed by fragility of materials. Supervision of the Archivist required.

Preferred Citation:
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Archives. MS78, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy Records, undated, 1934-1946.

Biographical or Historical Note

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1894-1946) was a painter, sculptor, photographer, designer, film maker, theorist and teacher who was a major figure in the Bauhaus movement, first in Germany and later instrumental in bringing the Bauhaus philosophy to the United States. His work spanned many genres. He was influenced by the Constructivists, Dadaists and the Suprematists. He experimented with photographic techniques with his first wife, fellow photographer Lucia Schultz Moholy.

He was born Laszlo Weisz in Hungary. He enrolled as a law student at the University of Budapest in 1913 where he contributed to avant-garde magazines, but was called into the army during World War I. Praise for his wartime sketches encouraged his artistic inclinations and he began to contribute to art publications as well as literary ones. When he was on reserve in Budapest he took evening classes at Robert Berény´s art school. In 1919 he moved briefly to Vienna and then to Berlin. By 1922, an exhibition of his work was touring nationally and he was appointed to the Bauhaus school of design where he taught with colleagues such as Josef Albers. He wrote two Bauhaus books and co-edited fourteen Bauhaus books on modern art and design, wrote two, and contributed to Oskar Schlemmer´s book on theater.

He left the Bauhaus in 1928 due to political pressures, following the example of German Architect Walter Groipus, and embarked on commercial practices in Berlin, Amsterdam and London from 1929-1937. In London, his social circle included artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

In 1937, Moholy-Nagy moved to in Chicago to direct the New Bauhaus. He had been appointed by the American Association of the Arts by the recommendation of Walter Gropius. After a year the Association withdrew its support of the New Bauhaus, but Moholy-Nagy and his staff reopened it in 1939 as the School of Design, later changing the name to the Institute of Design in 1944. Moholy-Nagy died of leukemia in 1946.



Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection includes notes written by Moholy-Nagy and annotated drafts and proofs of materials for publication. Handwritten items include notes on photographic ideas and printing, and the history of photography. Materials in preparation for publications include a draft of the revised introduction to "The New Vision: Fundamentals of Design, Painting, Sculpture, Architecture", proof of the article "Why Bauhaus Education?", as well as a letter to be printed in a rare periodical devoted to Moholy-Nagy.

Transcriptions and translation of handwritten notes are included with items.

Subject Terms

Art — Study and teaching
Art, Modern
Bauhaus - History
Photography, Artistic

The new vision / László Moholy-Nagy

Personal Names
Gropius, Walter, 1883-1969
Kalivoda, František
Moholy-Nagy, László, 1894-1946

Corporate Names
Institute of Design (Chicago, Ill.)

Container List

László Moholy-Nagy Records undated, 1934-1946
box 1folder 1Hand written note by Moholy-Nagy on on a photo idea with bird´s eye and worm´s eye view, between 1922-1946
1 page
Starting with his marriage to his first wife, photographer Lucia Schultz Moholy, in 1922, Moholy-Nagy began experimenting with the medium of photography. He used different photographic techniques, photo-collage, unusual perspectives and cropping.

The idea he has written here, "Die [ungedeckte?] Perspective" includes the bird´s eye view, a worm´s eye view and multiple images together. He references the English artist William Hogarth (1697-1746) who was a master of perspective in his work and produced an engraving which included a mix of different perspectives titled "Satire on False Perspective" for John Joshua Kirby´s pamphlet on linear perspective.
2Moholy-Nagy instructions on reproduction of photogram, between 1922-1946
1 page
This is a handwritten note by Moholy-Nagy with instructions on reproduction of a brown photogram. A photogram is a photographic image made without a camera. Moholy-Nagy writes in "Painting, Photography, Film", that photograms are means of "light-composition" equivalent to color in painting and sound in music. He describes his method of making photograms as light falling on light sensitive materials through objects which have "different coefficients of refraction or to be deflected from its original path by various contrivances."

Moholy-Nagy began experimenting with photographic techniques with his first wife, the photographer Lucia Schultz Moholy, in 1922. Moholy-Nagy is one of group of modern artists in the 1920s, including Christian Schad and Man Ray, who notably experimented with the artistic medium of the photogram as a prominent part of their work.

3Proof of article "Why Bauhaus Education?" by Moholy-Nagy with corrections and notations in margin, March 1938.
1 page
This is an article in Shelter, no. 3, pp. 6-21. March 1938, a magazine on architecture and design published by R. Buckminster Fuller. In this article Moholy-Nagy makes the case for Bauhaus education, an education that addresses not only the intellect, but also the senses. This draft includes three paragraphs of material that Moholy-Nagy has marked out for exclusion in the final article. The back of the page includes the proof version of a description of Moholy-Nagy´s career, a photo of Moholy and a section about Moholy-Nagy written by Walter Gropius.
4Hand written notes for lecture on the history of photography with notes on people on the back, Institute of Design letterhead by Moholy-Nagy, 1946
1 page.
This is a page of handwritten notes by László Moholy-Nagy. It is written on the letterhead of the Institute of Design in Chicago, originally named the New Bauhaus, which he founded and then directed from 1937-1945. This letter can be dated to 1946 by the tenure of Serge Chermayeff as president of the Institute of Design as well as the movement of the Institute to Dearborn street around September of 1946.

The front of the page contains notes on the history of photography. Moholy-Nagy starts with Aristotle (384 BC — 322 BC), who wrote the first known description of a camera obscura in Problemata. Then he moves to the 19th Century with Thomas Wedgwood (1771-1805) and Sir Humphrey Davy (1778-1829), who made some of the first images recorded with light sensitive materials, and the use of silver chloride. He then notes Sir John Herschel (1792-1871) who adopted hyposulphate of soda as the fixing agent.

His note "Niepce copied lithos 1813" refers to Nicéphore Niépce (1765-1833) whose experimented with lithography as a means of capturing images. Moholy-Nagy then moves to Daguerre noting that his method had "no means to reproduce." Next, is William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), inventor of the calotype, followed by David Octavius Hill (1802-1970) and Robert Adamson (1821-1848) who in 1843 used photography as a means of capturing the likeness of the members of the new Free Church of Scotland. Gustave Le Gray (1820-1882) created a recipe for collodion on glass negatives. Alexander Gardner and Mathew Brady were known for their photography of the American Civil War.

André-Adolphe-Eugčne Disdéri (1819-1889) invented the carte de visite (i.e. "visiting card") photograph which first enabled the mass production of photographs. Moholy-Nagy notes one of his carte de visite of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie. Félix Nadar was the pseudonym of Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (1820-1910) who was also a balloonist and was the first person to take aerial photographs. Moholy-Nagy notes he "believed in sharpness." Moholy-Nagy notes the artist and photographer Antoine Samuel Adam-Salomon (1818 —1881) whose photographs gained more acceptance as works of art as a "machine painter." He ends these notes with "Rejlander Superimpostion." Oscar Gustave Rejlander (1813-1875) was a Swedish photographer living in England who experimented with double exposure, photomontage, photographic manipulation and retouching.

The back page contains notes with names, addresses and notations to various areas related to the subjects taught at the Institute such art history, design, theatrical design, photography. There are also notes on visual perception and psychology, referencing Gestalt psychology and the Ladd Franklin Hypothesis of Color Vision. Various sections of the notes are marked early or middle. Names include Mrs. L. Forwalter, Mr. J. Forwalter, Mrs. Garduk, Mr. Novak, Mr. Paulin and George Mandell. Mr. Paulin may refer to the photographer Frank Paulin (1926-) who was known to be enrolled at the Institute at that time. It is also known that Moholy-Nagy was at this time looking for new teachers for the Institute due to an increase in student enrollment.

box 2folder 1Galley proof of letter to be printed in "Telehor: The International Review New Vision" from Moholy-Nagy to Frantisek Kalivoda, June 1934
1 leaf ; 16 cm.
This is a gallery proof of a letter from László Moholy-Nagy to Frantisek Kalivoda, editor of Telehor. This letter was written for publication in a now rare 1936 special double-issue devoted to Moholy-Nagy which includes an introduction by Siegfried Giedion, essays from Moholy-Nagy and reproductions of his works as well as a post-script by Frantisek Kalivoda. Frantisek Kalivoda (1913-1971) was a noted avant-garde Czech architect. He wrote in the postscript to this issue that the "basic programme of this periodical [is] to discuss the problems of modern art and to indicate the precise connections existing between its various categories and, in particular, between the spheres of painting, photography and film."

In this letter, Moholy-Nagy outlines his vision of art using "creative manipulation of light" to create various types of light displays. He writes, "the flowing chords of my visions formed fully orchestrated symphonies of light." He ends the letter acknowledging that that while it is currently "impossible" to fully utilize optical techniques to actually form his visions, he will continue to experiment with light.

2Partial draft of introduction to the revised and enlarged edition of "The New Vision: Fundamentals of Design, Painting, Sculpture, Architecture" by László Moholy-Nagy circa 1938
1 leaf ; 84 cm + fragment.
This is a partial typewritten draft of the introduction to the revised and enlarged edition of "The New Vision: Fundamentals of Design, Painting, Sculpture, Architecture" by László Moholy-Nagy. In it he outlines the educational structure of the New Bauhaus, later the Institute of Design, which he founded in Chicago. He covers the preliminary courses and workshops that are offered. This appears to be a middle draft with many handwritten annotations and changes. Notably eliminated in the final printed introduction is mention of a sixth workshop in stage (exposition architecture, display).