Untitled (Photogram), 1923-1925

Untitled (Photogram), 1923-1925
gelatin silver print, printed 1929
annotation 'fotogramm', 'berlin w 50' by Lucia Moholy in ink, stamped 'foto moholy-nagy' and 'moholy-nagy/berlin-chbg/gh IV/Berlin W 50' (on the verso)
image/sheet: 14¾ x 10¾in. (37.5 x 27.4cm.)
Modernist Masterworks to 1925 from 'the deLIGHTed eye', A Private
, International Center of Photography, New York, 1985, p. 31; Heyne, Neusüss and Moholy-Nagy, eds., Moholy-Nagy: The Photograms: Catalogue Raisonné, Hatje Cantz, 2009, cat. no. fgm 78, pp. 92, 230
Modernist Masterworks to 1925 from 'the deLIGHTed eye,' A Private Collection, International Center of Photography, New York, May 15-June 16, 1985

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Lot Essay

For László Moholy-Nagy, the photogram represented the highest achievement in photography because it was composed of pure light and form in an ambiguous space without traditional perspective, and therefore it held the potential for total abstraction and artistic expression. Made without the descriptive filter of a negative, the resulting gradations of black, white and grey appeared as continuous and luminous modulations of absolute light received by photographic paper, the perfect symbol for a new way of seeing in the 1920s.
Moholy began making his cameraless photographs in 1922. Those earliest photograms utilized flat objects placed on or close to the photographic emulsion. He soon began to use three-dimensional materials in space, however--possibly twisted paper in the case of this image--to create a more elusive result. At the time he made this photogram, he was calling them 'light compositions.' He did not use the term 'photogram' until 1925, when he published Painting Photography Film.
Moholy often enlarged his photograms for exhibition, sometimes up to 60 x 90 cm. (about 24 x 36 inches). This print is an enlargement from an untitled photogram dated between 1923 and 1925, when Moholy was teaching foundation courses and a metalwork class at the Weimar Bauhaus. According to the catalogue raisonné for Moholy's photograms, in which this image is called Fotogramm 78 (fgm 78), the print was made in about 1929 in Berlin by Lucia Moholy for a suite of 10 images known as the Giedion Portfolio. Fotogramm 78 is dated the earliest of the 10 images in the suite. Intended as an edition of 20, it is not known whether all copies of the portfolio were realized. The only complete portfolio known to exist is in the collection of the Kupferstichkabinett of the Kunstmuseum Basel. Of the remaining six extant enlargements made for the portfolio, the Cruz print is one of three in private hands, and another three exist in institutional collections. The original photogram, and the copy negative from which Lucia made the enlargements, are lost. A trimmed contact print made from the copy negative can be found in the collection of the Musée national d'art moderne, Paris.

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