About This Artwork

László Moholy-Nagy
American, born Hungary, 1895–1946

Untitled, c. 1940

Gelatin silver photogram
50.1 x 40.2 cm

Gift of George and Ruth Barford, 1968.264

© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

An artist who worked in many media, László Moholy-Nagy was hired to lead Chicago’s New Bauhaus, a school based on Bauhaus principles, in 1937. Photography was only one part of a curriculum that integrated art, industry, and society, but it was a key element; as Moholy wrote, “The illiterate of the future will be ignorant of the camera and the pen alike.” Central to his understanding of photography was the photogram, an image made by placing objects or casting shadows directly on photographic paper and exposing the arrangement to light. To Moholy, the photogram was the perfect teaching tool because it demonstrated the medium’s complete tonal range and revealed photography’s essence to be its sensitivity to light. This image, dedicated to George Barford, another instructor at the school, may have been a collaborative effort in the darkroom or a teaching example for the classroom.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, "Photographs from the Permanent Collection," March 20–May 30, 1976. (Miles Barth)

Wellesley, Massachusetts, Wellesley College Museum, "Moholy-Nagy, Photography and Film in Weimar Germany," April 10–June 10, 1985; traveled to Houston, Texas, The Museum of Fine Arts, November 2, 1985–January 5, 1986; Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, January 31–April 13, 1986.

Zurich, Switzerland, Kunsthaus Zurich, "Photogramm," March 31–May 27, 1990.

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, "Moholy-Nagy and Present Company," April 29–September 24, 1995. (David Travis)

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, "Cameraless Wonders," June 10, 2000-November 5, 2000. (Elizabeth Siegel)

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, "Taken by Design: Photographs from The Institute of Design, 1937–1971," March 2–May 12, 2002; traveled to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, July 20–October 20, 2002; and Philadelphia Museum of Art, December 7, 2002–March 2, 2003. (David Travis and Elizabeth Siegel)

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, "Photography on Display: Modern Treasures," May 9–September 13, 2009. (Matthew S. Witkovsky, Elizabeth Siegel, and Katherine Bussard)

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, "They Seek a City: Chicago and the Art of Migration, 1910–1950," March 3–June 2, 2013. (Sarah Kelly Oehler)

New York, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, "Moholy_Nagy: Future Present," May 25-September 7, 2016; traveled to Art Institute of Chicago, October 2, 2016-January 3, 2017; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, February 8-June 18, 2017.

Publication History

Travis, David and Elizabeth Siegel. 2002. “Taken by Design: Photographs from the Institute of Design, 1937–1971.” Exh. cat. Art Institute of Chicago/University of Chicago Press. p. 34, cat. 131, pl. 1.

Hight, Eleanor M. 1985. "Moholy-Nagy: Photography and Film in Weimar Gallery." Exh. cat. Wellesley College Museum. p. 61, fig. 21.

Renate Henye and Floris Neususs. 2009. "Moholy-Nagy: The Photograms, Catalogue Raisonné." Hatje Cantz. fgm 342 p. 256

Oehler, Sarah Kelly. 2013. "They Seek a City: Chicago and the Art of Migration, 1910–1950." Exh. cat. Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press. p. 98, fig. 98.

Interpretive Resources

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