Lot Closed

April 3, 05:04 PM GMT


400,000 - 600,000 USD

Lot Details





a unique object, on printing-out paper, signed 'L. Moholy = Nagy,' titled, dated '1922,' annotated '(fotogramm),' 'New York,' 'Original / sehr vorsichtig behandeln!' [Original / treat very carefully!], and with enlargement notations in pencil on the reverse, 1922

7 by 5⅛ in. (18 by 13 cm.)

Additional Content:

László Moholy-Nagy: Master of the Photogram

Collection of the photographer

By descent through the family to the present owner

This object:

László Moholy-Nagy, 'Die Photographie in der Reklame,' Photographische Korrespondenz 63, September 1927, no. 9, fig. 5

László Moholy-Nagy (Valencia: IVAM Centre Julio González, 1991), p. 349

Renate Heyne, Floris M. Neusüss, and Herbert Molderings, László Moholy-Nagy: Fotogramme 1922 – 1943 (Essen: Museum Folkwang, 1996), p. 156

Herbert Molderings, Floris M. Neusüss, and Renate Heyne, Moholy-Nagy: The Photograms: Catalogue Raisonné (Ostfildern, 2009), fgm 19

Ingrid Pfeiffer and Max Hollein, eds., László Moholy-Nagy: Retrospective (Munich, 2009), p. 116

Moholy-Nagy: Laboratory Of Vision (Kokushokankokai, 2011), p. 75

Oliver A. I. Botar, Sensing the Future: Moholy-Nagy, Media and the Arts (Zurich, 2014), p. 45

Matthew S. Witkovsky, Carol S. Eliel, and Karole P. B. Vail, Moholy-Nagy: Future Present (The Art Institute of Chicago, 2016), pl. 60

Nina Wiedemeyer, ed., original bauhaus (Berlin: Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung, 2019), p. 42, fig. 3

Other photograms in the series:

Leland D. Rice and David W. Steadman, eds., Photographs of Moholy-Nagy from the Collection of William Larson (The Galleries of the Claremont Colleges, 1975), p. 15

Eleanor M. Hight, Picturing Modernism: Moholy-Nagy and Photography in Weimar Germany (Cambridge, 1995), pl. 38

Eleanor M. Hight, Moholy-Nagy: Photography and Film in Weimar Germany (Wellesley College Museum, 1985), pl. 25

The brilliant photogram offered here was conceived of by László Moholy-Nagy as a possible cover design for the March 1923 issue of Broom: An International Magazine of the Arts (vol. 4, no. 4). Moholy-Nagy, the renowned Hungarian-born painter, photographer, writer, and instructor of the Bauhaus school, became a master of the photogram, the cameraless photography process by which an object was placed directly on photographic paper and exposed to light. For this issue of Broom, he conceived at least three additional cover designs. Two of these photograms are now in museum collections— at the Museum Folkwang, Essen (fgm 20) and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (fgm 22). The third work, formerly in the collection of Eugene and Dorothy Prakapas, was sold in these rooms on 27 April 2005.

An international modernist review, Broom was very much a part of the little-magazine movement that swept the United States and parts of Europe in the first decades of the twentieth century. Founded in 1921 by Harold Loeb, part owner of the ‘Sunwise Turn’ bookshop in New York City, and his friend Alfred Kreymborg, Broom was published first in Rome (1921-22), where the magazine was printed on luxurious Fabriano paper. Its impressive large scale and bold, graphic, original cover art quickly set Broom apart from its competitors. Production moved to Berlin briefly (1922-23), before printing its last issues in New York City (1923-24). Before Broom ceased publication after 21 issues, it had showcased a remarkable number of important writers and artists, from Cocteau to Gertrude Stein and e. e. cummings; Picasso to Rockwell Kent and El Lissitzky; and the photographers Man Ray, Paul Strand, and Moholy-Nagy.

While none of Moholy-Nagy’s exceptional photogram designs were used for the magazine’s cover, Broom published his essay ‘Light: A Medium of Plastic Expression’, illustrated by four of his more abstract photograms as well as four Rayographs by Man Ray. Although cameraless photography had been used since the birth of the medium, it was not until the early 20th century that interest was re-invigorated by a new generation of avantgarde artists. Moholy-Nagy’s nascent experimentation with the photogram began only a few months prior to the March 1923 issue of Broom, which marked not only the first publication of his photograms but also the first translation of his writings from German to English. March 1923 also marked the start of Moholy-Nagy’s tenure teaching at the Bauhaus.

The present work is an exquisite example of what Moholy-Nagy would later refer to as a typophoto, a work that blended photography and typeface to produce a new means of visual communication. In his Broom photograms, Moholy-Nagy explored different configurations of the magazine’s letters (B R O O M), layering shapes of different density to create degrees of opacity or translucency. Moholy-Nagy appears to have created cover designs for Broom in earnest, but the costs associated with reproducing a photogram might have been daunting for the publication. As discussed in Moholy-Nagy: The Photograms: Catalogue Raisonné, the creation of a halftone plate measuring 33.5 by 23 cm. would have been necessary to reproduce Moholy’s photogram in the scale of the large-format publication (p. 57). Moholy-Nagy’s enlargement notations (‘24 cm’) and handling instructions (‘Original / treat very carefully!’) on the reverse of the present photogram, however, may indeed suggest that this unique work was considered for publication.