• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7584

    Photographs

    15 May 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 34

    LÁSZLÓ MOHOLY-NAGY (1894-1946)

    Oskar Schlemmer, 1927

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    LÁSZLÓ MOHOLY-NAGY (1894-1946)
    Oskar Schlemmer, 1927
    gelatin silver print
    signed, titled, dated and annotated 'Ascona' by photographer, credit stamp, numbered '33', '189' [crossed out] in other hands in graphite/red wax pencil on verso
    11 x 8¼in. (28 x 21cm.)


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    This study is of one Bauhaus master by another. Schlemmer had been appointed by Walter Gropius in 1920 as Master of Form in the sculpture workshop. With an appropriate disdain for the conventional hierarchies of art and for any demarcations between fine, applied and performing arts, Schlemmer interlinked several disciplines. He concentrated on the human figure, reconstructing it as a configuration of strict geometric forms and exploring the figure in space through highly stylised dance. For Schlemmer, the stage and particularly dance became the perfect paradigms of utopian Bauhaus cross-discipline creativity that challenged the elitist convention of the unique precious work as the ultimate expression of art.

    Moholy-Nagy effectively defined his radical approach to artistic experimentation in his 1927 publication Malerei Fotografie Film. His modernist aesthetic, that distilled elements of dada and of de Stijl, saw photography as a central and essential tool of radical picture making and communication. Able to express his innovative vision through his multiple and inter-connected skills as painter, sculptor, graphic designer and typographer, Moholy-Nagy was equally unfettered by tradition in his exploration of photography. Appointed Master of Form in the metal workshop in 1923, he soon led the crucial preliminary course, giving him the opportunity to instil a broad and inclusive attitude that linked vision, technology and the media and allowed photography a privileged central position.

    This portrait was one of a series of images that Moholy-Nagy made on this balcony at Casa Fantoni in Ascona, Switzerland, where he joined Schlemmer's family on vacation. The hard shadows of the railings become a grid that is distorted by and, curiously, at once emphasises yet obscures the forms on which it falls. This study was among the very substantial submission of ninety-seven photographs by Moholy-Nagy presented in the Film und Foto exhibition.

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    Provenance

    As lot 27.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM THE SPRINGEFELD COLLECTION

    This century belongs to light. Photography is the first means of giving tangible shape to light, though in a transposed and perhaps just for that reason almost abstract form.

    LÁSZLÓ MOHOLY-NAGY


    Literature

    Internationale Ausstellung des Deutschen Werkbunds: Film und Foto, Stuttgart, 1929, p.40; Roh (ed.), L. Moholy-Nagy: 60 Fotos, Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1930, fig.50; Haus, Moholy-Nagy photographies, photogrammes, Chêne, 1978, p.49; Haenlein, Photographie und Bauhaus, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover, 1986, p.169, pl.102, dated '1927'; László Moholy-Nagy, Institut Valencia d'Art Moderne, Musées de Marseille, 1991, p.229; In Focus: László Moholy-Nagy, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995, p.48, pl.24; Borchardt-Hume (ed.), Albers and Moholy-Nagy: from the Bauhaus to the New World, Tate, 2006, p.29.