Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895 – 1946) Hungarian Designer – Applied Arts

Featured Image by László Moholy-Nagy (MoMA)
Featured Image by László Moholy-Nagy (MoMA)

László Moholy-Nagy was a painter and photographer from Hungary who also taught at the Bauhaus school.


In Budapest, he studied law, while elsewhere, he studied sketching and painting. During World War I, he began drawing and became interested in Kasimir Malevich and El Lissitzky. He relocated to Vienna in 1919 and Berlin in 1920. His work was published in the avant-garde Hungarian magazine Ma and exhibited at Herwarth Walden’s Der Sturm gallery, reflecting his interest in Dada and Constructivism. He was friendly with the Constructivists and attended Theo van Doesburg’s Dadaist-Constructivist Congress in Weimar in 1922.


On the invitation of Walter Gropius, Moholy-Nagy attended the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau from 1923 to 1928, where he practised book design, filmmaking, photography, and typography. He succeeded Johannes Itten as director of the Vorkurs (preliminary course) and Paul Klee as director of the metal workshop at the Bauhaus in Weimar. His students included Christian Dell, Wilhelm Wagenfeld, and Marianne Brandt.

Moholy-Nagy and Gropius edited the Bauhausbücher publishing series. He worked on the photogram. He left the Bauhaus in 1928 and moved to Berlin, where he worked as a stage designer, painter, photographer, and filmmaker at the Theater of Piscator from 1928 until 1933. His extensively published modular illuminated structure was on display at the Salon de la Mode in Paris in 1930.

Amsterdam & London

He moved to Amsterdam in 1934 and worked in London from 1935 to 1937. His graphic design work fueled the local poster movement. In the mid-1930s, he collaborated on some graphic designs with Richard Levin, including the covers of the magazine Shelf Appeal. Moholy-Nagy contributed to Lilliput and Picture Post, two illustrated weekly publications. He lived in Jack Pritchard’s Lawn Road flats (constructed in 1934) in Hampstead, London, alongside other immigrants.

Work in the United Kingdom

Nagy’s The New Vision: From Material to Architecture (1928) and Vision in Motion (1929) were seminal publications by Moholy-Nagy (1947). In the United Kingdom, his work included films, layout and poster designs for International Textiles, travelling exhibitions and publicity materials for Imperial Airways, posters for London Transport, publicity and display work for Simpson’s store, special visual effects for Alexander Korda’s 1936 film Things to Come (not in the final cut), publicity materials for the Isokon furniture firm, exhibition displays, and special visual effects for Alexander Korda’s 1936 film Things to Come (not in the final cut), publicity materials for the Isokon furniture 

Chicago Years

In 1937, on the recommendation of Walter Gropius, and at the invitation of Walter Paepcke, the Chairman of the Container Corporation of America, Moholy-Nagy moved to Chicago to become the director of the New Bauhaus. The school’s philosophy was unchanged from that of the original, and its headquarters was the Prairie Avenue mansion that architect Richard Morris Hunt had designed for department store magnate Marshall Field.

However, the school lost the financial backing of its supporters after only a single academic year, and it closed in 1938. Moholy-Nagy resumed commercial design work, which he continued to do for the rest of his life. Moholy-Nagy was also the Art Advisor for the mail-order house of Spiegel in Chicago.

Paepcke continued to support the artist, and in 1939 Moholy-Nagy opened the School of Design in Chicago. He also started making static and mobile sculptures in transparent plastic, often accented with chromed metal.

In 1940, the summer session of the School of Design was held at Mills College in Oakland, California. In 1942, he taught a summer course at the Women’s Teachers College in Denton, Texas.

Moholy-Nagy’s grave at Graceland Cemetery

In 1943, Moholy-Nagy began work because of his efforts to develop the curriculum of the School of Design. It would be posthumously published in his 1947 book Vision in Motion, collaborating with his art historian wife, Sibyl.

In 1944, the School of Design in Chicago became the Institute of Design. In 1949 it would become a part of the Illinois Institute of Technology, the first institution in the United States to offer a PhD in design.


In Budapest, the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design is named after him. To honour Moholy-Nagy, the software business Laszlo Systems (developers of the open-source programming language OpenLaszlo) was named after him. The City of Chicago placed a Tribute Marker in 1998. The Moholy-Nagy Foundation, Inc. was founded in 2003 as a repository of information regarding Moholy-life Nagy’s work. Moholy-work Nagy was featured in a retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2016, including painting, cinema, photography, and sculpture. A documentary film made by Alysa Nahmias, The New Bauhaus, was released in 2019. The video features his daughter Hattula Moholy-Nagy, curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist, artists Jan Tichy, Barbara Kasten, Barbara Crane, Kenneth Josephson, Debbie Millman, and Olafur Eliasson. It focuses on Moholy-life Nagy’s legacy in Chicago.


Wikipedia contributors. (2021, September 3). László Moholy-Nagy. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:03, September 18, 2021, from

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