- László Moholy-Nagy
- Z IV
- signed Moholy-Nagy and titled on the reverse
- oil on canvas
- 68 by 86cm.
- 26 3/4 by 33 7/8 in.
Galleria Galatea, Turin
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1975
New York, Kleemann Gallery, Moholy-Nagy, 1957, no. 15
Mannheim, Städtische Kusthalle Mannheim, Laszlo Moholy Nagy, 1961
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Painters of the Bauhaus, 1962, no. 150 (with incorrect measurements)
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Moholy-Nagy, 1968, no. 8, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (with incorrect measurements)
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Laszlo Moholy Nagy, 1969, no. 12
Genoa, Accademia di Belle Arti e Palazzo Reale, Immagine per la città, 1972
The work of Moholy-Nagy was exhibited at Herwarth Walden’s legendary Galerie der Sturm in Berlin in 1922 and it was shortly after this that Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus, asked him to join the academy. Painted in 1923, Z IV displays the artist’s characteristic innovative boldness, establishing a wonderful dialogue between the black diagonal bar and the abstract ray of light intersected by vertical black lines and three coloured dots. Moholy-Nagy firmly believed that the art of the present must parallel contemporary reality in order to communicate meaning to its public, surrounded by new technological advancements. He therefore considered traditional, figurative painting obsolete and turned to pure geometric abstraction filtered through the stylistic influence of Russian Constructivists such as Malevich and El Lissitsky. In the present work Moholy-Nagy explored a way of representing light on painted canvas: the coloured circles appear to be translucent as one plane overlaps the next and their hues shift accordingly. These intersecting, transparent forms read as converging beams of light.
Moholy-Nagy’s vision of a non-representational art, consisting of pure visual elements of colour, texture, light and balance of forms, was a constant throughout his career. He attempted to define an objective science of essential forms, colours, and materials, which would promote a more unified social environment. In his book Vision in Motion, he sought to explain his underlying beliefs in the function of art: ‘Art is the most complex, vitalising and civilising of human actions. Thus it is of biological necessity. Art sensitizes man to the best that is imminent in him through an intensified expression involving many layers of experience. Out of them art forms a unified manifestation, like dreams which are composed of the most diverse source material subconsciously crystallized. It tries to produce a balance of the social, intellectual and emotional existence; a synthesis of attitudes and opinions, fears and hopes’ (L. Moholy-Nagy, Vision in Motion, Chicago, 1947, p. 28).