Lucia Moholy

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Lucia Moholy
Self-portrait Lucia Moholy.jpg
Self-portrait (1930)
Lucia Schulz

(1894-01-18)January 18, 1894
Prague, Austria-Hungary
DiedMay 17, 1989(1989-05-17) (aged 95)
Zürich, Switzerland
Known forPhotography
(m. 1921; div. 1929)

Lucia Moholy (née Schulz; 18 January 1894, in Prague, Austria-Hungary — 17 May 1989, in Zürich, Switzerland) was a photographer and publications editor. Her photos documented the architecture and products of the Bauhaus, and introduced their ideas to a post-World War II audience. However Moholy was seldom credited for her work, which was often attributed to her husband László Moholy-Nagy or to Walter Gropius.[1][2]

Early years[edit]

Lucy Schulz grew up in a nonpracticing Jewish family in a "German-speaking enclave" of Prague,[2] where her father had his law practice, in the Austrian part of Austria-Hungary.[2] Her own diaries from that period, include a drawing from May 10, 1907, of gifts her father brought back to Lucy, her brother Franz, mother and grandmother from his trips.[2] Through these diaries written in her teen years, we know she corresponded with pen pals in the United States in English, and read Thomas Mann, and Leo Tolstoy.[2] As tensions rose in 1914 and the events that led to World War I, then twenty-year old Shultz, who may have been working in her father's law offices at the time, made donations "for the families of the Austrian war".[2]


After qualifying as a German and English teacher in 1912, Shultz studied philosophy, philology, and art history at the University of Prague.[3]

Early career[edit]

In the early years of World War I, Shultz began to work in Wiesbaden, Germany as theater critic for a local newspaper.[2] Shortly after, Shultz moved to Leipzig. In Berlin, she worked for publishing houses, such as Hyperion, Kurt Wolff, among others, where she was an editor and copy editor.[3]

In 1919 she published radical, Expressionist literature under the pseudonym "Ulrich Steffen".[3][4]

Personal life[edit]

In Berlin in April 1920, Shultz met László Moholy-Nagy (1895 – 1946), a recent émigré from Hungary.[2] They were married in January 21, 1921, on her 27th birthday.[2] Following her marriage to Moholy-Nagy in 1921, Moholy, who worked with publishing houses, provided the only salary for the couple.[2] During the years the couple lived in Dessau, Germany on the Bauhaus school campus, Moholy's diaries describe her sense of discontent in Dessau, her feelings of estrangement and her longing for the city. She described how groups of twenty arrived for short periods, partied and left. Moholy-Nagy was not sympathetic to her feelings.[2] They separated in 1929, a year after they left Dessau.[2]

In 1933, the Nazi Party rose to power. Moholy dated a Communist Member of Parliament, who was arrested in her apartment one day while she was out. She abruptly left Berlin, leaving all of her belongings including the bulky glass negatives of her Bauhaus photographs, which ended up in the hands of Walter Gropius.[2] After having lived in Germany for two decades, she was forced to flee to Prague where she stayed with her family. She then went to Switzerland, Austria, Paris, before settling in London.[4]

After World War II ended, Moholy started a campaign to emigrate to the United States. Documentation for the application included a letter from her brother, Franz, who had a successful career, a good income and had offered to support her. Moholy-Nagy provided her with an offer of a position as photography professor in Chicago.[2] Her application for a "nonquota visa as a professor" was denied in 1940, on the "grounds that she lacked experience teaching".[2]

Bauhaus years (1923-1928)[edit]

Georg Muche (1926, gelatin silver print)

In 1923, Walter Gropius, who had founded the Bauhaus school in 1919 in Weimar, Germany, hired Moholy-Nagy as a teacher.[2] In 1926, the couple moved into one of the Bauhaus staff residences called 'Meisterhäuser—Masters’ Houses—on the school's new campus in Dessau, Germany.[2]

During those five years, Moholy documented the interior and exterior of Bauhaus architecture and its facilities in Weimar and Dessau,[5][6] as well as the students and teachers. Her aesthetic was part of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement, which focused on documentation from a straightforward perspective. Moholy’s Bauhaus photographs helped construct the identity of the school and create its image.[4][3] She was a skilled photographer through her studies at the Leipzig Academy for Graphic and Book Arts (Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig)[4] At Bauhaus, she also apprenticed in Otto Eckner’s photography studio.

Moholy and Moholy-Nagy experimented with different processes in the darkroom, such as making photograms.[2][7][8]

In 1925, the book Malerei, Photografie, Film (1925; Painting, Photography, Film) was published only under Moholy-Nagy's name, even though, she had contributed to all of the experimentation. This lack of recognition was evident in numerous publications.[4]

In 1938, while Moholy lived in London, Walter Gropius used about fifty of Moholy’s images from the Bauhaus years—from her negatives that he still had in his possession—in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition and the accompanying catalogue, without giving her any credit. [2][9]

Lucia Moholy struggled to receive recognition for her work. Her images were widely used for marketing and in the Bauhaus school’s sales catalogs, as well as Bauhaus-published books that she edited.[9] An interest in the Bauhaus started to grow in the late 1930s, and she saw numerous catalogs of the Bauhaus printed with her lost images. Gropius had been using her photographs without crediting her. She repeatedly reached out to Gropius to reclaim her images and he would continuously protest. Moholy resorted to hiring a lawyer to retrieve her work.[2][9]

Some relevant letters between Walter Gropius and Lucia Moholy are displayed on the website 99% Invisible.[9] Moholy stated, "These negatives are irreplaceable documents which could be extremely useful, now more than ever" to which Gropius replied, "[...]long years ago in Berlin, you gave all these negatives to me. You will imagine that these photographs are extremely useful to me and that I have continuously made use of them; so I hope you will not deprive me of them." Lucia Moholy responded, "Surely you did not expect me to delay my departure in order to draw up a formal contract stipulating date and conditions of return? No formal agreement could have carried more weight than our friendship. It is a friendship I have always relied on, and which, also, I am now invoking."[9]

Moholy did not get physical possession of her original material until the 1960s, but even then she only could recover a portion of them.[9] Her 1972 publication, Moholy-Nagy Notes, was an attempt to reclaim credit for her work that was printed without permission.[7]

Exhibitions and publications[edit]

In 1925, Lucia Moholy was included in the landmark exhibition in Stuttgart, Film and Foto. It featured artists working in the New Vision aesthetic (Precisionism).[4]

Her studies of the novelist Inez Pearn are held at the National Portrait Gallery, one of which formed part of the Bauhaus In Britain exhibition at the Tate Britain (2019).[10]

In her book, A Hundred Years of Photography, 1839-1939, she discussed in depth the history of the medium.[1]

In her 1972 publication, entitledMoholy-Nagy Notes ,[7] she included the shared collaboration between herself and László Moholy-Nagy at the Bauhaus, in an attempt to reclaim artistic credit for her photographs and experimentation.[4]

London (1933-1959) and Switzerland (1959-)[edit]

In London, Moholy focused on commercial photography and teaching. She also published a book, A Hundred Years of Photography, 1839-1939, written in English.[1] Moholy ran a microfilm operation based at the London Science Museum Library, for the Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux (ASLIB),[11] where she reduced the scale of photographic documents for storage at the Library.[11]

In 1946 to 1957, immediately after the World War II, she traveled to the Near and Middle East for projects for UNESCO, where she did photographic reproduction processes of graphic material[further explanation needed] and directed documentary films.[3]

In 1959, she moved to Zollikon, Switzerland, where she wrote about her time at the Bauhaus, and focused on art criticism.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Williamson, Beth (April 2016). "Lucia Moholy, 'Bauhaus Building, Dessau' 1925–6". Tate. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Forbes, Meghan (Winter 2016). ""What I Could Lose": The Fate of Lucia Moholy". Michigan Quarterly Review. 55 (1). ISSN 1558-7266.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Lucia Moholy". 100 years of Bauhaus. Bauhaus Kooperation 2019. Archived from the original on 2019-04-11. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Blumberg, Naomi (22 May 2016). "Lucia Moholy". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  5. ^ Sachsse, Rolf. Lucia Moholy Bauhaus Fotograjin. Berlin: Bauhaus-Archiv, 1995
  6. ^ Schuldenfrei, Robin (May 2013). "Images in Exile: Lucia Moholy's Bauhaus Negatives and the Construction of the Bauhaus". History of Photography'. 37 (2): 182–203.
  7. ^ a b c Moholy, Lucia; Moholy-Nagy, László, 1895-1946 (1972), Marginalien zu Moholy-Nagy : documentarische ungereimtheiten... = Moholy-Nagy : marginal notes : documentary absurdities, Scherpe, archived from the original on July 21, 2021CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Findeli, A. (1987). 'Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Alchemist of Transparency', in The Structurist, 0(27), 5.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Photo Credit: Negatives of the Bauhaus". 99% Invisible. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  10. ^ "Agnes Marie ('Inez') Spender (née Pearn) - National Portrait Gallery".
  11. ^ a b Moholy, L. (1946), “The ASLIB microfilm service: the story of its wartime activities”, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 2 No.3, pp.147-73

Further reading[edit]

  • Bergdoll, Barry; Dickerman, Leah (2009). Bauhaus 1919-1933 : workshops for modernity. New York: Museum of Modern Art. p. 344. ISBN 9780870707582.
  • Madesani, Angela; Ossanna Cavedini, Nicoletta; Moholy, Lucia (2012). Lucia Moholy (1894-1989) : tra fotografia e vita = between photography and life. Cinisello Balsamo : Silvana Editoriale. p. 191. ISBN 9788836625406.
  • Rosenblum, Naomi. A history of women photographers (Third ed.). Abbeville. p. 432. ISBN 9780789212245.
  • Ulrike., Muller (2015). Bauhaus women : art, handicraft, design. Flammarion. pp. 142–149. ISBN 978-2080202482.

External links[edit]