Like many women of her time, Lucia Moholy often found herself in the shadow cast by her more conspicuous male peers—one of whom happened to be her husband, the photographer László Moholy-Nagy. After marrying in 1921, the couple moved to Weimar, Germany, so that he could begin a professorship at the Bauhaus, the influential German school of architecture, design, and applied arts. While László taught, Lucia undertook photography training, serving as an apprentice in Otto Eckner’s Bauhaus photography studio. By 1926 she had mastered a wide range of techniques, installed a darkroom in their home, and begun collaborating with her husband on experimental forms of cameraless photography.

As part of her photographic practice, Lucia began documenting the people and architectural spaces of the Bauhaus. Many of her images focus on the women who either supported or participated in the school’s activities. Edith Tschichold (1926), for instance, depicts the wife of German typographer and frequent Bauhaus collaborator Jan Tschichold. Meanwhile, Florence Henri (1927) portrays the notable Surrealist artist at the outset of her career, when she came to the Bauhaus in 1927 as a visiting photography student. Both portraits are tightly cropped around the women’s faces, revealing expressions of wistfulness or self-assurance that pull viewers into a shared emotional space.

One of Lucia’s more iconic portraits is an untitled photograph of her husband, who, sporting a machinist’s coveralls over his shirt and tie, humorously attempts to block the camera lens with his hand. The candid shot hints at the playful nature of the couple’s working relationship; once circulated, it also helped to shape László’s persona as an artist-constructor. Despite happy appearances, their relationship began to deteriorate as László declined to credit Lucia for many of their collaborations, including the celebrated 1925 book Malerei, Photografie, Film (Painting, Photography, Film).

This was not the only—or even the most significant—erasure of Lucia’s career. Forced to flee Germany in 1933 due to the rise of the Nazi Party, she made the difficult decision to leave behind her collection of 560 glass-plate negatives, which she described as “my only tangible asset.”1 Following World War II, in the midst of a revival of interest in the Bauhaus, she tried desperately to locate them with no success. It wasn’t until 1954 that Walter Gropius, founder and former head of the Bauhaus, acknowledged that the negatives were in his possession, that he had been reproducing them, and that he had no intention of returning them to her. Lucia Moholy’s precise visual records of the school’s architecture—such as Bauhaus Workshop Building from Below. Oblique View (1926)—had been circulated without attribution for years in order to promote Bauhaus aesthetics. In fact, 49 of her prints appeared uncredited in the catalogue accompanying MoMA’s exhibition Bauhaus, 1919–1928, which was mounted in 1938 with Gropius’s input. 2

As part of her legal efforts to reclaim the negatives, Lucia wrote, “Everybody, except myself, have used, and admit to having used my photographs […] and often also without mentioning my name. Everyone—except myself—have derived advantages from using my photographs, either directly, or indirectly, in a number of ways, be it in cash or prestige, or both.”3 Her claim was ultimately successful, leading to the return of 230 extant negatives in 1957. However, the acknowledgement of her influence—both as a collaborator in László Moholy-Nagy’s photographic experiments, and as an agent in the construction of Bauhaus visual identity—remains an ongoing project.

Introduction by Dana Ostrander, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography, 2020


  1. Moholy, quoted in Robin Schuldenfrei, “Images in Exile: Lucia Moholy's Bauhaus Negatives and the Construction of the Bauhaus Legacy,” in History of Photography 37.2 (2013): 189.

  2. Schuldenfrei, “Images in Exile,” 197. After protests from Moholy, this oversight was rectified in MoMA’s German language reprint of the publication in 1955.

  3. Moholy, quoted in Schuldenfrei, “Images in Exile,” 196.

Wikipedia entry
Introduction
Lucia Moholy, born Lucia Schulz, (18 January 1894, in Prague, Austria-Hungary — 17 May 1989, in Zürich, Switzerland) was a photographer and publications editor. Her photos documented the architecture and products of the Bauhaus, and introduced their ideas to a post-World War II audience. However Moholy was seldom credited for her work, which was often attributed to her husband László Moholy-Nagy or to Walter Gropius.
Wikidata
Q214381
Information from Wikipedia, made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
Getty record
Introduction
Lucia moved to Berlin in 1920 where she met László Moholy-Nagy whom she married in 1921. In 1922 to 1923 Moholy experimented with photograms with her husband as well as photographing the works of the Bauhaus. From 1924 to 1925 Moholy studied architectural photography and design at the Bauhaus, Weimar, Germany and also at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany from 1926 to 1928. In 1925-1926 Moholy was commissioned by Walter Gropius to photograph the new Bauhaus buildings at the Dessau, Germany campus. Moholy established a private studio for art photography in Dessau, Germany from 1925 to 1928. In 1928 Moholy settled in Berlin, Germany and began to concentrate on theatre photography. In 1933 Moholy moved to Paris, France, and in 1934 she moved to London, England, United Kingdom, and opened a portrait studio. Moholy became a naturalized British citizen in 1947. From 1952 to 1953 and from 1956 to 1957 Moholy served as an expert for scientific documentation in the Middle East for UNESCO. She was sent to photograph Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey. In 1959 Moholy moved to Zurich, Switzerland.
Nationalities
British, Bohemian, Czech, Hungarian, Swiss
Gender
Female
Roles
Artist, Author, Writer, Teacher, Photographer
Names
Lucia Moholy, Lucia Schulz, Lucia née Schultz
Ulan
500008672
Information from Getty’s Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License
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