Lot 12
  • 12


300,000 - 500,000 GBP
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  • László Moholy-Nagy
  • Segments
  • signed Moholy-Nagy and dated 1921 on the reverse; signed L. Moholy-Nagy, titled, dated 1921 and inscribed (Tempera) on the stretcher
  • tempera and traces of pencil on canvas
  • 76 by 48.5cm.
  • 29 7/8 by 19 1/8 in.
  • Painted in 1921.


Sibyl Moholy-Nagy (the artist's widow) Helmut G. Franke, Chicago (acquired from the above)

Private Collection, USA (a gift from the above. Sold: Sotheby’s, New York, 14th November 1985, lot 242A)

Galerie Beyeler, Basel (purchased at the above sale)

Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1986

Catalogue Note

Dating from 1921, Segments was created two years before Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus, asked Moholy-Nagy to join the academy. The composition displays the artist’s characteristic innovative boldness, establishing a dialogue between the elongated black bar and the semi-circular shapes, as well as between these finely painted elements and the coarse appearance of the bare canvas. 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 (fig. 2). In the present work Moholy-Nagy explored a way of representing light and shadow through the purely abstract vocabulary of the intersecting semi-circular elements.         Moholy-Nagy’s vision of a non-representational art, consisting 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 on 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 immanent 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).

The authenticity of this work has been verbally confirmed by Hattula Moholy-Nagy.