Sunday, September 13, 2015

László Moholy-Nagy

László Moholy-Nagy by Lucia Moholy c1925
An interesting entry in the St Jude’s Register of Baptisms records the christening in March 1937 of Claudia, the daughter of the Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy.  

Originally László Weisz, her father changed his name to Nagy, that of his mother’s Christian lawyer, after his Jewish father abandoned the family.  He later added Moholy after Mohol the town in which he grew up.  After serving in the Austro-Hungarian army in the First World War he studied art in Budapest, and in 1923 became an instructor at the Bauhaus.  When the Nazis came to power he left Germany first for Amsterdam, and then in 1935 for London where he lived in the ISOKON building in Belsize Park, before moving to Farm Walk in Hampstead Garden Suburb.

While trying to establish an English version of the Bauhaus, Moholy-Nagy worked as a designer for Simpson's of Piccadilly and London Transport. He was commissioned by John Betjeman, the assistant editor of the Architectural Review, to photograph contemporary architecture, and published his own documentary photography studies: Street Markets in London and Eton Portrait. He made a documentary film, Life of the Lobster, and special effects for the director Alexander Korda.

Although a supporter of the short lived Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919, and a habitué of extreme left wing circles,  Moholy-Nagy was never a member of the Communist Party.  In 1918 he had joined the Hungarian Reformed Church and in London was known to the comrades as ‘Holy Mahogany’, perhaps because of his attendance at St Jude’s.

The family moved to the United States in 1937 where László established himself as one of the major artists of his period with works today in many of the world's leading galleries. He died in 1946. In Budapest in 2006 the Hungarian University of Arts and Design was renamed the Moholy-Nagy University.

Claudia Moholy-Nagy, baptized at St Jude’s on 21st March 1937, died in 1971.