Sibyl Moholy-Nagy

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Sibyl Moholy-Nagy (October 29, 1903 – January 8, 1971) was an architectural and art historian. Originally a German citizen, she accompanied her husband, the Hungarian Bauhaus artist László Moholy-Nagy, in his move to the United States. She is the author of one of the most important and influential[by whom?] studies of his work, Moholy-Nagy: Experiment in Totality, plus several other books on architectural history.


Sibylle Pietzsch was born in Dresden on October 29, 1903 to Deutscher Werkbund architect Martin Pietzsch and Fanny Clauss Pietzsch. After attending the University of Dresden[disambiguation needed], she became an actress, performing in several films. She eventually became a scriptwriter, and in the late 1920s, met Bauhaus-trained artist and photographer László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) while working on a film script. They were married in 1932. They had two daughters, Hattula (born 1933), and Claudia (1936–1971). After residing together in Germany for over a year and a half, they left due to the rise of Nazism. In 1934, they settled in Amsterdam, and then London for two years.

In 1937, the family emigrated to the United States, settling in Chicago. Here, Moholy-Nagy assisted her husband in opening and the New Bauhaus, in October 1937. Moholy-Nagy also helped her husband and the New Bauhaus staff to run the school until its closure in 1938. Moholy-Nagy also helped her husband run the Chicago Institute of Design for several years. Her first, and only published novel, Children's Children, appeared in 1945.

After her husband's death in November, 1946, Moholy-Nagy decided she would become an architectural historian and teacher. Her first book, a biography on her husband, Moholy-Nagy: Experiment in Totality, established her as an academic. In 1951, after holding teaching positions in Chicago and San Francisco respectively, she got a job as associate professor of architecture history at the Pratt Institute in New York City. She taught courses on such subjects as urban history and design. She retired from being a full professor in 1969, and became a visiting professor at Columbia University until her death.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Moholy-Nagy had a fulfilling career as an architecture critic, maintaining professional relationships with such figures as Walter Gropius, Philip Johnson, and Carlos Raul Villanueva (whom she would undertake an extensive study of his work). One her most important books, Matrix of Man: An Illustrated History of Urban Environment, appeared in 1968. She also made numerous contributions to architecture magazines, such as Architectural Forum and Progressive Architecture. She was also one of the first critics to study post-War Latin American architecture in-depth.

She died in New York City on January 8, 1971.


  • Paine, Judith, "Sibyl Moholy-Nagy: A Complete Life." Archives of American Art Journal 15:4 (1975), 11-16.
  • Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy: Experiment in Totality. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1969.

Selected publications[edit]

  • Children's Children (writing as S.D. Peech). New York: H. Bittner, 1945
  • Moholy-Nagy: Experiment in Totality. New York: Harper Brothers, 1950. (Rev. Ed., MIT Press, 1969)
  • Paul Klee: Pedagogical Sketchbook (Introduction and translations). New York: Praeger, 1953 (rev. 1968)
  • Native Genius In Anonymous Architecture. New York: Horizon Press, 1957.
  • Carlos Raul Villanueva and the Architecture of Venezuela. New York: Praeger, 1964.
  • Matrix of Man: An Illustrated History of Urban Environment. Preager, 1968
  • The Architecture of Paul Rudolph. (Introduction). Praeger, 1970