Swann will offer a László Moholy-Nagy gouache and watercolor Composition in our 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings auction tomorrow.
Moholy-Nagy (1894-1946) was an influential Jewish-Hungarian artist
known for his contributions to art and
design, and his association with the Bauhaus in Germany. Born László Weisz,he changed his surname after his father abandoned his family and took
Nagy from his mother's friend, a Christian lawyer who supported
the family after his father left, and Moholy from the region where
his family home was located, called Mohol. Initially he was
interested in writing, and published his own poems and prose starting at the age
In 1914, soon after he
entered Budapest University to study law, he was drafted into the
Hungarian army where he sustained a serious injury in battle and, while
recovering in the military hospital, began drawing on military-issued
postcards. By the time he was discharged in 1918 he had
completed 400 of these drawings. Moholy-Nagy received his law
degree, with no intention of practicing professionally, and continued
his art education with the avant-garde Fauvist artist Robért Borény.
In 1919, he left Hungary for Vienna and continued on to Berlin
where he became an instructor at the Bauhaus. It is likely that
this gouache composition was made just before he began his tenure at the
Bauhaus. The stylistic components are consistent with other works from that period, such as his Large Railway Painting, 1920, now in
the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid, with its similar
numerical and geometric elements.
He would soon abandon the Cubist forms and alpha-numerals seen in these works.
As he began his new role as
Bauhaus instructor Moholy-Nagy became more focused on photography and new technology,
adopting the Bauhaus emphasis on artistic versatility and the
integration of art and design.He believed that photography
presented a new way of seeing the world that the naked eye was not
capable of, and shared his theories and teachings in a
groundbreaking book, The New Vision, from Material to Architecture, 1938.
After leaving the Bauhaus in 1928, Moholy-Nagy created his famous
kinetic sculpture--a work that deftly combines design and
technology--known as the "Light-Space Modulator." When
World War II broke out, Moholy-Nagy was forced to uproot and
moved to Holland, then London and finally Chicago. During
his movements through Europe he worked freelance and contributed to
large design projects that focused on innovative technology,
widely spreading his name and reputation. In Chicago, with the support
of American industrialist Walter Paepcke, he attempted to start an
American Bauhaus school. An initial attempt failed due to a lack of
financial backing, but a second attempt, the Institute of Design,
succeeded, and is now part of Illinois Institute of Technology.
This particular work was once in the collection of the late esteemed literary agent Joan
Daves, whose clientele included an array of
Nobel Prize recipients, notably Hermann Hesse, Heinrich Böll, Elias
Canetti and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Daves began her career at
Harper & Brothers, where in the 1940s she collaborated with Mrs.
Mohology-Nagy while compiling a book regarding her husband's art career.
Labels: 19th and 20th century prints and drawings, Bauhaus, gouache, Joan Daves, László Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy, Todd Weyman, watercolor