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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more DEPTH OF FIELD: THE ALAN AND DOROTHY PRESS COLLECTION

Akt (Nude), 1929

Akt (Nude), 1929
gelatin silver print
signed, titled, dated '1923' and annotated in ink and pencil (verso)
image: 9 1/2 x 7 in. (24.1 x 17.7 cm.)
sheet: 9 7/8 x 8 in. (25 x 20.3 cm.)
Artist's widow and art historian Sybil Moholy-Nagy;
acquired from the above by a private collector, New York;
Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York;
acquired from the above by the late owner, 2005.
László Moholy–Nagy, Foto, Kossuth Nyomda, Budapest, 1980, p. 17.
Andreas Haus, Moholy–Nagy, Fotos und Fotogramme, Schirmer / Mosel, Munich, 1978, p. 69 (negative).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

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Kathryn Widing
Kathryn Widing Vice President, Senior Specialist, Head of 21st Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

“...A picture by Moholy is a long step forward on the way to the conquest of space. Moholy soon recognized that we can comprehend space best by means of light.” - Walter Gropius

A prominent figure of the Bauhaus School of art and design and one of the most influential artists of his generation, László Moholy-Nagy was what he considered a total artist. He aimed to eliminate the hierarchization and separation of the arts by creating in all media, from painting, sculpture, graphic design, film, and photography. In 1923, He received an invitation to teach at the Bauhaus after gaining the attention of founder and renowned architect Walter Gropius. Moholy-Nagy’s start at the school marked a turning point in its direction. He was given control of the introductory course and emphasized the unification of art, modern technology, and industry, encouraging his students to experiment with new materials and techniques (Exhibition Catalogue, László Moholy-Nagy: The Art of Light, La Fábrica, Madrid, 2010, p. 11). Moholy-Nagy considered art an educational tool for societal impact and championed photography as a crucial modern language, becoming an ardent supporter of experimental photographic processes.

Just as conventional media and materials were being reassessed at the Bauhaus, Moholy-Nagy called for unrestricted experimentation with the photographic process. He believed that photography’s potential as a medium had yet to be fully discovered, marking a significant contribution to fighting the belief that photography was not art. In 1925, while teaching at the school he published his essay Painting, Photography, Film, where he introduced an aesthetic theory on light. He believed that light was the matrix of art, and that art was the art of light (ibid., p. 12). For Moholy-Nagy, light formed the foundation of his practical and theoretical work, any art becoming meaningful if it reflected light.

During his time at the Bauhaus, Moholy-Nagy was instrumental in conceptualizing a new approach to photography that he coined the “New Vision.” He considered creative photography as “productive photography,” and emphasized the autonomy of the artistic medium, not only to be used to capture reality (ibid., p. 14). He pushed the boundaries of the medium by experimenting with shooting in unconventional ways, highlighting various textures, lines, light, shadow effects, and tonal contrasts, playing with new darkroom techniques, and making photographs without a camera. The present lot, Akt (Nude), 1929, is a prime example of Moholy-Nagy’s New Vision. From an unusual vantage point, he approaches his subject in a lush environment, creating an impression of motion that the eye cannot still. The light plays around the figure, the harsh shadows from the leaves creating an abstract and almost tactile pattern across the body. The interplay of light, shadow, and cropping is integral to the success of this photograph. It is emblematic of Moholy-Nagy’s fascination with the camera lens as a tool to create graphic and playful imagery out of everyday life.

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