Hungarian-born US painter, kinetic sculptor, and teacher, who pioneered the use of new materials and has been described as the prototype of the modern experimental artist.
Moholy-Nagy studied law at Budapest and served in World War I before becoming a full-time artist. His first paintings were landscapes and portraits but in 1919 his growing interest in avant-garde experimentation was quickened by contact with the Russian artists Kazimir Malevich (1878–1935), El Lissitsky (1890–1941), and Gabo in Vienna. In 1921 he was in Berlin experimenting with collage and photomontage. From 1923 he taught at the influential Bauhaus school, where he continued to paint and worked with photography, films, theatre design, typography, industrial design, and experiments with light, as well as co-editing Bauhaus publications. On leaving the Bauhaus in 1928 he moved to Berlin, Amsterdam, and London, where he was a member of the constructivist group, and finally to Chicago in 1937. Here he took charge of the New Bauhaus, founded the Chicago School of Design, and continued to produce his space modulations, which he had begun to develop in London. These three-dimensional constructions of glass, metal, and plastic produced optical effects by the play of light on their moving surfaces. Moholy-Nagy saw the manipulation of light as the art form of the future. His belief in this, and in the reintegration of art with the environment, are expounded in his two books, published in 1932 and 1947.