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
László Moholy-Nagy (m. 1921–1929)

Lucia Moholy, born Lucia Schulz, (18 January 1894, Prague, Austria-Hungary — 17 May 1989, 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]


Florence Henri (1927, gelatin silver print)

In the early 1910s Lucia Moholy studied philosophy, philology, and art history at the University of Prague.[3] In 1915 she shifted her attention to publishing, and worked as an editor for several publishing houses in Germany.[3] In 1919 she published radical, Expressionist literature under the pseudonym "Ulrich Steffen".[3][4] She met Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy in 1920 in Berlin, and married him on her 27th birthday in January 1921. The two would spend five years at the Bauhaus school, where Lucia Moholy would explore her affinity with photography.[3][4]

Her husband became a master teacher at the Bauhaus in 1923, with Lucia Moholy as his primary darkroom technician and an important collaborator.[4] She also became an apprentice in Otto Eckner’s Bauhaus photography studio. Moholy studied at the Leipzig Academy for Graphic and Book Arts (Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig), where she became a skilled photographer.[4] 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]

Lucia Moholy and her husband experimented with different processes in the darkroom, such as making photograms.[2][7][8] In numerous publications, all of the experimentation the couple had done was credited solely to "László Moholy-Nagy", such as the book Malerei, Photografie, Film (1925; Painting, Photography, Film), which was published only under her husband’s name.[4]

In 1929 the couple separated.[why?] That same year Lucia Moholy was included in the landmark exhibition in Stuttgart, Film and Foto. It featured artists working in the New Vision aesthetic (Precisionism).[4]

Moholy then taught photography at a private art school in Berlin directed by Johannes Itten. In 1933 when the Nazi Party rose to power, she emigrated to London. There, she focused on commercial photography and teaching. She also published a book, A Hundred Years of Photography, 1839-1939, written in English, which discussed in depth the history of the medium.[1] Moholy ran a microfilm operation based at the London Science Museum Library, for the Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux (ASLIB),[9] where she reduced the scale of photographic documents for storage at the Library.[9] She started a campaign to emigrate to the United States, but it never succeeded, even though her ex-husband offered her a teaching position in photography in Chicago around 1940.[2]

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

In 1972 she published Moholy-Nagy Notes[7] which discussed the shared collaboration between herself and László Moholy-Nagy at the Bauhaus, and attempted to reclaim artistic credit for her photographs and experimentation.[4]


Georg Muche (1926, gelatin silver print)

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.[10] In 1933 Moholy was dating a Communist Member of Parliament, who was arrested in her apartment one day while she was out. She fled to Prague and stayed with family, and then to Switzerland, then Austria, then Paris, and finally settled in London.[4] She had left everything behind in Berlin, including the bulky glass negatives of her Bauhaus photographs, which ended up in the hands of Walter Gropius.[2]

While she resided in London, an interest in the Bauhaus started to grow, and she saw numerous catalogs of the Bauhaus printed with her lost images. Gropius had been using her photographs without crediting her. In an exhibition on the Bauhaus at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1938, Gropius used nearly 50 of Moholy’s images for the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue without crediting her once. 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][10]

Some relevant letters between Walter Gropius and Lucia Moholy are displayed on the website 99% Invisible.[10] 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."[10]

Moholy did not get physical possession of her original material until the 1960s, but even then she only could recover a portion of them.[10] Her 1972 publication, Moholy-Nagy Notes, was an attempt to reclaim credit for her work that was printed without permission.[7]

Her studies of the novelist Inez Pearn are held at the National Portrait Gallery (one of several currently on display at the Tate Britain).[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Williamson, Beth (April 2016). "Lucia Moholy, 'Bauhaus Building, Dessau' 1925–6". Tate. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e Forbes, Meghan (Winter 2016). ""What I Could Lose": The Fate of Lucia Moholy". Michigan Quarterly Review. 55 (1). ISSN 1558-7266. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Lucia Moholy". 100 years of Bauhaus. Bauhaus Kooperation 2019. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j 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. “Images in Exile: Lucia Moholy's Bauhaus Negatives and the Construction of the Bauhaus.” In History of Photography 37:2 (May 2013):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, ScherpeCS1 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 Moholy, L. (1946), “The ASLIB microfilm service: the story of its wartime activities”, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 2 No.3, pp.147-73
  10. ^ a b c d e "Photo Credit: Negatives of the Bauhaus". 99% Invisible. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  11. ^ "National Portrait Gallery".

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 2080202480.

External links[edit]