Lot 66
  • 66

László Moholy-Nagy

200,000 - 300,000 USD
334,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • László Moholy-Nagy
  • photogram/ photograph
  • 11 3/8  by 15 in. (29 by 38 cm.)

    11 1/8  by 14 7/8  in. (28.5 by 37.8 cm.) 
a unique photogram and a positive print of the photogram, both inscribed 'oben' by the photographer and dated ‘1926’ and annotated ‘L. Moholy-Nagy’ by Sybil Moholy, the photographer’s wife, in pencil, numbered ‘1.’ and ‘2.’ respectively, and with directional and other notations in various hands in pencil and ink on the reverse, 1920s; accompanied by a frame backboard with exhibition labels (2 photographs, one backboard)


Collection of the photographer

To his widow, Sybil Moholy

By descent to the present owner


Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein, László Moholy-Nagy, October – December 1974, and traveling thereafter to Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne; Künstgewerbemuseum der Stadt Zürich; Museum de XX Jahrhunderts, Vienna; Hungarian National Museum, Budapest; and Musée des Arts Décoratrifs, Paris through 1977

Valencia, Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Centre Julio Gonzalez, László Moholy-Nagy, February – April 1991, and traveling thereafter to Museum Fredericianum, Kassel; and Musée Cantini, Marseilles, through September 1991

Hayama, Museum of Modern Art, Moholy-Nagy in Motion, April – July 2011, and traveling thereafter to National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; and Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art, Sakura, through December 2011


These works: 

Herbert Molderings, Floris M. Neusüss, and Renate Heyne, Moholy-Nagy: The Photograms: Catalogue Raisonné (Ostfildern, 2009), fgm 87 and 87A, and p. 91

Krisztina Passuth, Moholy-Nagy (London and New York, 1985), pls. 116-17

Catalogue Note

This large and early pair of images by Moholy-Nagy comprises a unique original photogram and its corresponding positive image.  Individually, each photograph is a model of its type: the original photogram is boldly graphic, with strong white geometric shapes floating against a deep black background; its reinterpretation as a positive image is no less impressive.  Viewed in concert they encapsulate Moholy’s deep understanding of photography’s versatility as an expressive tool, and illustrate the extent to which the photogram process, in Moholy’s hands, could be used to make novel and dynamic images. 

Intact negative/positive photogram pairs, such as that offered here, are rare.  Renate Heyne, in Moholy-Nagy: The Photograms: Catalogue Raisonné, locates eight pairs, all in institutional collections.  It is believed that an intact photogram pair has never before appeared at auction.  Heyne knows of no other print of the positive photogram offered here (fgm 87A).  

The photogram process, for Moholy, was the essence of photography, as it involved the direct manipulation of light.  If one could master the challenge of controlling the action of light by hand onto photo-sensitive material, he reasoned, making images with a camera would come naturally.  Moholy made photograms throughout his long career, and his work with the process was always executed with characteristic adventurousness and rigor.  His exploration of the photogram extended past the making of unique originals to using them as a point of departure for new works. The second photograph offered here is one of a number of examples of Moholy’s reinterpretation of a photogram as a positive image.  Moholy made this photograph by contact printing the original photogram (fgm 87) onto a sheet of photographic paper, producing an image (fgm 87A) whose tonal values are reversed from the original.  While the resulting print is inextricably related to its source, it presents a new aesthetic experience.  Moholy called this process ‘revaluation’ and began experimenting with it during his years in Weimar, between 1923 and 1925. 

The notations on the reverse of the photogram and its positive counterpart indicate that Moholy intended both images to be viewed together.  The numbering (‘1.’ on the photogram, ‘2.’ on the positive), the directional ‘oben’, and the notation ‘untereinander’ indicate that these photographs were to be exhibited and/or reproduced one on top of the other.  Several other positive/negative photogram pairs by Moholy from this period are marked with similar instructions, indicating if they are to be shown side by side, or one of top of the other (cf. fgm 84 and 84A, and fgm 86 and 86A).