In 1937, a group of businessmen organized as the Association of Arts and Industries, on the recommendation of German Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, invited the Hungarian artist and designer László Moholy-Nagy to Chicago to reestablish the Bauhaus school of design, which the Nazis had shut down in 1933. Moholy-Nagy, who was exiled in England at the time, had been a prominent member of the Bauhaus faculty. Although the New Bauhaus was forced to close in 1938 after less than a year in operation owing to the association's withdrawal of financial support, Container Corporation president Walter Paepcke helped Moholy establish the School of Design in Chicago in 1939, which retained the Bauhaus pedagogy and several members of its faculty. Moholy led the design school, which changed its name to the Institute of Design in 1944, until his death in 1946. Drawing on archival resources at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois, Chicago, this essay looks at Moholy's immigration to the United States and his close relationship with Paepcke, an arts patron who created jobs for other Bauhaus designers including Herbert Bayer. Moholy and Paepcke attempted to incorporate the socialistic Bauhaus pedagogy with the practical demands of capitalistic American business. Their close personal and professional relationship reveals the limits and possibilities of such a cultural and economic fusion.

Shortly before his death from leukemia at age 51 on November 24, 1946, the Hungarian artist and designer László Moholy-Nagy traveled from his adopted home of Chicago to the Museum of Modern Art in New York for a conference on industrial design as a “New Profession.” Despite his illness, he was motivated to make the trip by a strong desire to explain to industrialists that their “insidious paternalism” was choking the “creative independence” of the artists and designers who worked for them. Moholy-Nagy distinguished himself from several prominent industrial designers attending the conference, including Raymond Loewy and Walter Dorwin Teague, in his insistence that designers should be visionary, socially conscious leaders rather than mere consultants serving industry's capitalistic selling incentive. He went so far as to say that designing was not a profession, per se, but rather the “attitude of the planner” working in any field, be it creating useful objects or managing labor relations. Design education was more than just vocational training, Moholy1 argued: given the rapid pace of technological transformation, technical skills could quickly be rendered obsolete, but the education of the designer developed fundamental attitudes and emotional capacities that could be applied to new social and technological contexts.2

Moholy-Nagy, a socialist émigré who fled Nazi Germany, had been in the United States since 1937, working tirelessly as the director of a school of design based on the model of the German Bauhaus, where he had been a member of the faculty and a close friend and associate of the school's founder, Walter Gropius. The Bauhaus idea of education in art and design had always been based on close cooperation with industry toward the end of mass production, but in America Moholy had been constantly frustrated in his efforts to convince businessmen of the value of the Bauhaus method of art education, where “industry follows vision” rather than vice versa. The Bauhaus pedagogical method was based on the foundation course (or Vorkurs) that taught students about the physical nature of the materials they worked with and their fundamental relationship to those materials as designers. Somewhat like a kindergarten, it involved much play and experimentation as a means of teaching students about the basic laws of design. This radical, modern course, which preceded more disciplined workshops, was the kind of thing that made the Bauhaus such a revolutionary school in the shattered world of post-World War I central Europe. Although American industrialists and businessmen had been positively impressed by the designs of the Bauhaus—which was widely recognized as the preeminent industrial design school before its forced closure in 1933—their view of themselves as austere pragmatists made them suspicious of its peculiar methods when they saw them up close, as it were. Right up until his death, Moholy tried constantly to convince them of the ultimate utility and social value of the Bauhaus pedagogy.

Among skeptical industrialists, Moholy had one true champion and believer from the world of business: Walter Paepcke, president of the Container Corporation of America. When the group of industrialists that had invited Moholy to America suddenly abandoned the school that they had appointed him to lead, Paepcke helped him reestablish his own design school, and he stuck with Moholy until the end of the artist's life. This essay concerns the dynamic relationship of this central European immigrant artist and this native-born American industrialist. The dynamism of their relationship, both personal and professional, is a synecdoche of the dialectical interplay of capitalism and socialism, European humanism and American pragmatism, at a time of democratic-republican experimentation and rising totalitarian threats.

The preponderance of secondary scholarship concerning the life and career of Moholy-Nagy has been written by museum curators and art historians, and it is primarily concerned with Moholy's career as a fine artist vis-à-vis his peers in the artistic avant-garde of Berlin and among the members of the Bauhaus.3 In contrast, this essay is principally concerned with Moholy as an industrial designer, educator, and institution builder.4 My approach takes Moholy seriously as an intellectual who based his pedagogy on a coherent, well-articulated Weltanschauung. I argue that the currents of social thought in interwar central Europe—particularly the modern design of the Bauhaus, the new spirit of social democracy, and the radical possibilities of communist ideology—remained present throughout Moholy's career, both in his work and in the program of the schools he led in the United States. These intellectual movements, I suggest, were not discarded in the new-world context but offered to the “free enterprise” system of capitalism stimulating ideas the American system had failed to produce. Yet the “pragmatic” approach of American businessmen—which was often, in reality, shortsighted and even mystical—resulted in the ultimate rejection of Moholy's innovations as integral elements of American business and design education practices.

From the Habsburg Empire to New Republics

Moholy's youth was defined by abandonment, academic privilege, and war. He was born László Weisz to Jewish parents in the village of Bácsborsód in southern Hungary on July 20, 1895. His derelict father, Lipót Weisz, finally abandoned the family when László was still a small boy and emigrated to the United States, apparently to escape a gambling debt. Moholy's mother, Karolina,5 raised the young László and his two brothers with the help of her well-off bachelor brother, Gusztáv Nagy, a lawyer who lived in the village of Mohol, noq Mol in Serbia. His uncle's name, combined with that of the village, would later provide László—who was called “Laci” by his family—with the basis for his chosen name, Moholy-Nagy, usually shorted to Moholy. Uncle Gusztáv's library was well-stocked with art books that greatly interested the young László, who also revered Dostoevsky. László attended a very good secondary school in nearby Szeged, and with the support of their grandfather's trust fund, he and his brothers later moved to Budapest, where he enrolled in the university as a law student in 1913. He studied law to please his family, but he also attended literary seminars, where he found greater intellectual stimulation and befriended Iván Hevesy, who would later become an important influence as a founder and fellow editor of the literary and cultural journal Jelenkor (Present age). But László's education was interrupted when he was called to serve in the Austro-Hungarian army upon the outbreak of the First World War the following year. He served as an artillery officer on the Russian and Italian fronts. László was traumatized by the war, and while recovering from shell shock he made pencil and crayon sketches, a hobby he had been cultivating since childhood. After badly injuring his thumb in battle, he spent several months convalescing in a hospital, where he passed the time doing crayon and watercolor portraits. He recovered in Budapest and even reenrolled at the university in 1917, but he later served out the remainder of the war as a reservist traveling to military hospitals.6

The immediate postwar years were a time of radical new beginnings for László and for his country of birth. After his discharge from the army in September 1918, László returned to Budapest to complete his legal studies. Having adopted his new name, “Moholy Nagy,” in the spring, he also converted from Judaism to the Hungarian Reformed Church. Moholy's earlier literary ambitions had been overtaken by artistic ones: he had resolved to become a painter. He spent what little money he had on art books and occupied his time practicing drawing, producing pictures with proletarian and industrial themes. Moholy also became active politically through the social-science-oriented Galileo Circle, presided over by the economist Karl Polányi, and through the antiwar Hungarian Activist movement, led by the socialist Lajos Kassák and centered around the modern art magazine Ma (Today). The Hungarian Activists regarded art as essential to social and political revolution, and Kassák stressed the idea of “synthetic” art as a way of life that served society. The idea of merging art with social revolution resolved Moholy's internal debate over whether devoting himself to art was a decadent privilege that had nothing to do with the “happiness of the masses.” The Hungarian Activist idea made art socially relevant and permitted Moholy to use his painting to project his “vitality” and “building power” to “give life” through color, light, and form.7

Moholy's radical artistic reorientation paralleled the turmoil of postwar politics in the new Hungarian republic, beginning with the Chrysanthemum Revolution led by the leftist Count Mihály Károlyi in early November 1918, and the establishment of a parliamentary democracy. The Nagy brothers' trust fund had evaporated with the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Moholy intensified his artistic study and production through informal art courses under Róbert Berény. Many of his comrades in the activist movement, such as Kassák, were demanding a communist republic, which they would get when the Hungarian Soviet was declared on March 21, 1919. Along with many in the Jelenkor and Ma circles of artist-intellectuals, Moholy signed onto a manifesto that called for an end to “bourgeois arts” and the establishment of “communist culture.”8

Beginning that spring, Moholy made a radical break from the folk art that had been the principal reference for his childhood drawings, embracing instead nonrepresentational art and the sharp geometry of the industrial landscape. This expressed his “profound inner transformation during the postwar chaos,” according to his widow and biographer Sibyl Moholy-Nagy. For the first time, artists of the period were appreciating the aesthetic qualities of engineering as “pure carriers” of functional requirements, which encouraged simplification, de-ornamentation, and a new perspective on the social and political relevance of art and design. Although Moholy had initially supported Béla Kun's communist revolution and the short-lived Soviet Republic, he himself was spurned by the communists,9 and he would later disavow them for their dismissal of culture. Béla Kun even attacked Ma as a “product of bourgeois decadence” and suspended its publication in July 1919. Amid this rapid political churn, Moholy deepened his fascination with the radical formalism of Cubist paintings and the introspective work of Expressionist artists such as Edvard Munch, Lajos Tihanyi, Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele, and Franz Marc. But for his own work he looked to the industrial objects of the built environment for inspiration: salt shakers, radiators, a T-square, and so forth. The trauma of war and the confusion of the present compelled him to seek a complete break from the prewar past, a tabula rasa, and in his collages, drawings, paintings, and woodcuts, he stripped his work down to the basics of color and form, simplifying everything to simple, geometrical shapes and colors.10

The collapse of the Hungarian Soviet and the invasion of the Romanian army in August 1919, coupled with the rising anti-Semitism during the “White Terror” wave, would force Moholy and many of the left-wing activists and communists in his circle to flee Budapest. Moholy first returned to Szeged, where he stayed for several weeks and even staged an exhibition along with artists from the Ma group. But by the middle of November he had joined his fellow Hungarian exiles in Vienna, the base from which Ma, banned in Hungary, would reappear as an art journal for Hungarian exiles in the spring of 1920. Yet he found the community of exiles to be plagued by internecine squabbles and ego conflicts, and the suffocating atmosphere made it impossible to pursue progressive politics. He wanted out of the old imperial capital and to be at the center of the avant-garde art scene.11

After spending several months “rotting” in Vienna in the company of his fellow exiled artists, Moholy departed for the modernist mecca of Berlin, traveling from town to town in the German countryside, earning money for the next leg of his journey as a letterer and sign painter before arriving in the capital in the late winter or early spring of 1920. Shortly thereafter, Moholy met Lucia Schulz, a leftist photographer and member of the bohemian group Freideutsche Jugend, whom he would marry the following year. Lucia, whose later photographs of the Bauhaus designers in their workshops in Dessau would become iconographic documents of the period, was from the beginning Moholy's close collaborator, editing his writings and carrying out photographic experiments with him.12 Photography as an art form based in light—particularly combined with movement in film—would become fundamental to Moholy's evolving ideas on the potential of reproducible, industrial design and art for the masses.13

Increasingly, Moholy began to see art as fundamentally political, not in its specific content but in its form. He did less and less representational painting as he hopefully saw abstract art as the visual counterpart to a “more purposeful, cooperative human society.” He worked on avant-garde stage designs and imagined experimental films that were “purely visual” in their explorations of the possibilities offered by the camera.14 Moholy also began to experiment with the “photogram,” a camera-less and nonrepresentational form of photography that he probably learned from Man Ray, but which would become one of his trademarks.15 He became so self-effacing that he stopped signing his paintings, instead numbering them “as if they were cars … or other industrial products.” Following the ideal of industrial art adaptable for mass production, Moholy once produced an original artwork by delivering precise instructions for a picture to the foreman of an enamel factory.16 He believed that the distinction between art and nonart, and between the various forms of art, was no longer a meaningful distinction. He was intrigued by Dadaist collage and photomontage, and particularly the form of Dadaism developed by Kurt Schwitters, but ultimately Moholy was too much of an earnest, optimistic idealist for the nihilistic, sometimes cruel antics of the postwar Dada crowd.17 Instead, Moholy's belief in technology and the machine as the basis for a new socialism led him to become an adherent of the avant-garde movement known as Constructivism, a derivation of Russian Suprematism that was defined by the work of artists like El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich, and Alexander Rodchenko. The Constructivist idea was also promoted in Berlin by Theo van Doesburg, the Dutch founder of the De Stijl journal and movement, where Moholy signed onto a manifesto calling for “Elementarist Art” as a formal expression of the times.18

By the spring of 1921, Moholy had become the Berlin representative of Kassák's Ma, and he also began to publish political articles and essays in a variety of other avant-garde journals. Moholy was often allied with other Hungarian émigré artist-intellectuals in Berlin such as László Péri, Alfréd Kemény, and Ernő Kállai, whom he joined in signing a manifesto calling for artists to join with the proletariat in striving for a communist society. The critic Kállai wrote in Ma that Moholy had converted the “kinetic system” of the modern machine into art. Moholy warned against the antitechnology path of the Luddites, encouraging workers to instead embrace the machine as a tool in their class struggle. The articles Moholy published in Hungarian for a small audience of exiles tended to be more overtly political than his German-language writings for more widely circulated, less political journals such as De Stijl and Herwarth Walden's Der Sturm. Even among his circle of communist exiles, Moholy had always been more of a fellow traveler than a hardliner, and he never formally joined the Party. He always maintained the views of a utopian leftist, but he funneled his politics into his art and teaching. According to Anna Wessely, the writings of Moholy and his cohort expressed an ideal communist society that was the “vanishing point where the different perspectives of the various emigrant factions might peacefully merge.”19 These major trends in the avant-garde art of the industrial, which merged political abstractions with formal abstractions, were summarized in an anthology published in 1922, Buch neuer Künstler, which Moholy edited with Kassák.20

Moholy's early years in Berlin culminated in his first major solo show in February 1922 at Walden's Galerie der Sturm. The exhibit, which would be the first of four for Moholy at the gallery, consisted of thirty-eight pieces in a variety of media: tempera and oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and reliefs and sculptures from wood and metal, which were executed in what Oliver A. I. Botar calls his “new post-mechano-Dada style” and “materials-based abstraction” that clearly marked him as a Constructivist. The exhibit aroused “intense interest” in the art world, and it brought Moholy's work to the attention of architect Walter Gropius, who had founded the Staatliche Bauhaus in Weimar in 1919 and was, at the time, looking for a new teacher for the school's Vorkurs or foundation course. The course had been taught by Johannes Itten, whose inward-looking, Expressionist sensibilities were increasingly at odds with Gropius's interest in the movement called die neue Sachlichkeit, “the new objectivity,” and his desire to encourage cooperative, practical work in service of positive social ends. Moholy's socially informed Constructivism and boundless enthusiasm was just what Gropius was looking for.21

The educational program of the Bauhaus was ideally suited for Moholy's talents and ambitions, even despite his lack of formal training—or perhaps because of it. Gropius had trained under the architect Peter Behrens, a prominent member of the Deutsche Werkbund, and he set up his own architectural practice in 1910. But after the devastation of the war, Gropius envisioned a new kind of school that would unite all branches of design, encompass every form of industry, and culminate in architecture, the Gesamtkunstwerk of design. In Weimar, he combined the academy of fine arts and the school of arts and crafts into a single “cosmic entity,” a unified school of design that was the Bauhaus. For Gropius, building was an art that required coordinated teamwork whose “orchestral cooperation” symbolized “the cooperative organism we call society.” Beyond their instructional value for training students, the Bauhaus workshops fulfilled a social responsibility as laboratories for the development of new designs and model-types—for furniture, utensils, textiles, light fixtures, and so forth—suitable for mass production. At the Bauhaus, the abstract ambitions of the artist and quotidian concerns of the craftsman were equally important. “Our ambition,” Gropius later recalled, “was to rouse the creative artist from his other-worldliness and to re-integrate him into the work-a-day world of realities.” The school cultivated enduring relationships with industrial concerns, which purchased licenses to produce Bauhaus designs and sponsored apprenticeships for promising students.

On the basis of the exhibition at Galerie der Sturm, Gropius was so positively impressed by Moholy's work and personality that he offered him a professorship at the Bauhaus in Weimar. Moholy accepted and, at the age of twenty-seven, began in the spring of 1923 as a master in the foundation course and the metal workshop. Gropius would later refer to Moholy as “the great stimulator,” and indeed he was Gropius's important colleague in building up the Bauhaus through its transition from Weimar—where it would lose the support of the rightist municipal government—to Dessau in 1925.22

In many ways the Bauhaus was the perfect venue for Moholy to develop as an artist, educator, socialist, and industrial idealist. Students there were recognized not as individual geniuses but rather as members of a working community engaged in a collective project. Its pedagogical aims were socially progressive, idealist, and yet enormously practical. Its various workshops—in carpentry, metal, weaving, printing, and modeling—produced designs for all kinds of goods and structures, from small household objects to large apartment blocks, which would be suitable for mass production by industrial concerns. Toward this end, the Bauhaus cooperated with industry from its inception, licensing models for mass production. But in Weimar it faced opposition from local artisans who felt threatened by the Bauhaus methods of design. The more industrial city of Dessau, however, which was centered in a coal-producing region, proved to be more welcoming to the Bauhaus ideal—at first. Its applied-arts school was merged with the Bauhaus in late 1925, and city authorities permitted the construction of a new building for the school, which included individual dwellings for professors.23

The Bauhaus also fulfilled its social function by publishing a series of fourteen textbooks on the theory and practice of design, which were edited by Gropius and Moholy. The two had originally planned a series of Bauhaus brochures, which would have more explicitly addressed political and social issues. These brochures would have been written by specialists in various fields, such as Rodchenko, who was asked to write about Constructivism. But ultimately Moholy and Gropius worked out a discrete book series, directly concerned with art and design, in 1924. With the assistance of Lucia, who had experience in publishing, Moholy designed the typography and layout for most of the books. He also contributed to the writing of a book on theater, and he would write two of the Bauhausbücher on his own. His first, Malerei, Fotografie, Film (Painting, photography, film), was the eighth volume in the series, published in 1925. In the book, Moholy posited that, because of the superior capacity for representation possible with photography and film, the future of painting was in pure color composition. Moholy also imagined a “phototext” narrative that could replace words, and he believed that machine-production had been perfected to the extent that the matter of the execution of the work by an artisan was irrelevant to its value. Consistent with his views on the integration of art and society, he also called for a Gesamtwerk—not merely a Gesamtkunstwerk—which would encompass not only all of the arts but also all of life.24

Over the course of his career at the Bauhaus, Moholy became a valued teacher, particularly in the foundation course, and in 1928 he articulated the Bauhaus pedagogy in the fourteenth and last in the series of Bauhausbücher, Von Material zu Architektur, which was later translated into English in 1930 and retitled The New Vision. At the heart of the Bauhaus method was an effort to eliminate the distinction between fine and applied arts, to move away from stifling specialization, and to revive in adults a child's “sincerity of emotion, his truth of observation, his fantasy and his creativeness.” Simultaneously, the Bauhaus would seek to “humanize” the strictly material concerns of the manufacturer. To accomplish this, the Bauhaus created a community of students who were educated in a cooperative environment and made to recognize their social responsibility. The Bauhaus is perhaps best known for its distinctive architecture—featuring flat roofs, light exterior walls, and large windows—but in fact there was no such thing as a “Bauhaus Style”; rather, there was a design ethos that emphasized functionality and mass producibility that led to certain common aesthetic traits. Although the machine had been used by capitalists to oppress workers under a system of Taylorism, Moholy believed that it held the potential to serve the social good by satisfying mass requirements. The various workshops of the Bauhaus—in object design, textiles, color, modeling, and “light” (which included photography, motion pictures, and advertising)—produced tubular furniture, a new kind of typography, and other products that were recognizable for the distinctive look but not consciously designed in any particular style.25

But as the Bauhaus moved away from its communitarian ideals in a more vocational direction under pressure from municipal authorities, Gropius and Moholy resigned in 1928, along with Herbert Bayer and Xanti Schawinsky, whom Moholy would later invite to join his “New Bauhaus” faculty.26 The Bauhaus was taken over by Hannes Meyer, and later Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who would move it to Berlin in 1932.

Moholy was, determinedly, an optimist, and the end of the Bauhaus ideal did not defeat him. He began working as a stage designer in Berlin, making sets for the Krolloper and the Piscator Theater. In plays like Der Kaufmann von Berlin, Moholy attempted to depict social conditions formally through complicated stage designs and light filters. He also began to experiment more seriously with film, a medium that, he felt, artists did not comprehend as fundamentally light, which led them to blandly imitate the compositions of easel paintings and fail to embrace the possibilities of “mobile space projection.”27 Moholy's best-known avant-garde film, the silent, six-minute Lichtspiel: Schwarz – Weiss – Grau (Light display: Black – white – grey), which he completed in 1930, featured the movements of his most famous mobile sculpture, Lichtrequisit (Light-space modulator), which he had been planning for years. Lichtrequisit was a complicated machine made of perforated, polished metal and glass, which Moholy built with the assistance of a Hungarian engineer. He intended for it to demonstrate various forms of light and “kinetic phenomena.” Powered by an electric motor, it rotated on an axis and reflected light that was projected onto it, producing its own silhouettes, shadows, and projections. With the help of the German company AEG, the piece was adapted for exhibition as part of the Werbkund display at the Exposition de la Société des Artistes Décorateurs, which was held in the Grand Palais in Paris. Moholy believed that the “Light display” film featuring his creation could help “build a sensory bridge to our capacity for creating abstract concepts.” He saw the socially progressive potential of film not in its value as overt propaganda, socialist or otherwise, but rather as a medium through which the “energies of the subconscious” might be activated to reveal the oppressiveness of modern capitalism.28

Exile from Exile

The rise of Nazism would ultimately destroy Moholy's political and professional ambitions on the Continent. The Bauhaus had been denounced in the Nazi press as a breeding ground of Bolshevism, and following Hitler's rise to power it was shut down in the spring of 1933, forcing its members to scatter around the world as refugees. Moholy was identified as a subversive by the SS for his association with the Bauhaus and for his refusal to submit several of his paintings to the Nazi censors. By January of 1934 he declared the situation in the arts “devastating and sterile,” stifled by Nazi propaganda that forced artists into an “insane solipsism.” He finally resolved to leave Germany, and he had London on his mind as a destination, where there was some possibility of reviving the Bauhaus with Gropius. In the meantime, he found a temporary job as a typographical consultant in Amsterdam, and he designed an exhibition display for the Dutch Artificial Silk Manufacturers. The turn of events in Europe, however, depressed him, and he lamented the failure of efforts to build a planned economy on a “socialist basis,” which were inevitably met with the “conscious or instinctive resistance of the ruling caste of society.”29

With his second wife, Sibyl—he had separated from Lucia several years earlier—Moholy finally moved to London in May 1935, where he established himself as an industrial designer, winning commercial contracts from cigarette companies, airlines, and transit authorities, including work for the London Underground. He also designed shop windows, arranged gallery exhibits of his own work, and produced his own motion pictures. He had steady work as a graphic designer for Imperial Airways and as the director of display for the Simpson's menswear store in Piccadilly, for which he produced striking Constructivist displays that brought much publicity. He was commissioned as a set and special effects designer for Alexander Korda's film adaptation of H. G. Wells's Things to Come, although the sequences he produced were ultimately cut from the final film. He had planned to film the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, but upon his arrival there he was so horrified at the transformation of Germany since his departure that he could not carry out the project. He also found, to his dismay, that several of the works he had left in his studio had been destroyed by a housekeeper, who denounced him as a cultural Bolshevik.30

Rebuilding the Bauhaus

Back in London, on June 6, 1937, Moholy received a cablegram from an organization in Chicago called the Association of Arts and Industries, inquiring as to whether he would be interested in directing a new design school there along the lines of the Bauhaus. The Association had first offered the position to Gropius, who turned it down because he had already accepted an appointment at Harvard's Graduate School of Design. Instead, Gropius recommended his “nearest collaborator” at the Bauhaus, Moholy, who was “the best man” they could get, endowed with a “rare creative power” that stimulates students.31 Moholy learned that the department store magnate Marshall Field had offered his family's twenty-five-room mansion to house the school. Several major Chicago industrialists on the board of the Association—including Walter Paepcke, president of the Container Corporation—had agreed to back the school. Moholy was interested, and he visited Chicago in July. Although he found the board members of the Association to be rather ignorant of the Bauhaus and vulgar in their tastes, he was impressed by their hospitality and excited about the opportunity. He found Chicago to be “incomplete” in a way that fascinated him, and he informed Sibyl that he had signed a five-year contract and that she and their two daughters should liquidate their belongings and come to Chicago. The “New Bauhaus” was set to open that fall, on October 18th. The aim of the new school, according to the director of the Association, would be to “meet the needs of industry and reintegrate the artist into the life of the nation.” Moholy assured the industrialists that the school would greatly benefit them by working on their problems and developing new, useful designs for mass production, new typographies, and innovative commercial art for advertising.32

The program of the New Bauhaus deliberately followed the model of the German Bauhaus, with its preliminary courses, specialized workshops, and the option for students to advance to a degree in architecture. Students would gain practical and theoretical training as designers of hand- and machine-made products in a variety of materials, and they would also learn stage display, exposition architecture, typography, modeling, painting, and the “commercial arts.” The basic aim was to make students conscious of volume and space. Moholy brought on several alumni of the German Bauhaus as instructors, as well as György Kepes, another Hungarian who had worked alongside Moholy as a commercial designer in England. Herbert Bayer was initially slated to come for the second year.33 Additionally, faculty members from the University of Chicago would teach various supplementary courses in the humanities under the rubric of “intellectual integration.” They were mostly from the “Unity of Science” movement led by Charles Morris and the German émigré Rudolf Carnap, a member of the “Vienna Circle” of logical positivists who had lectured at the German Bauhaus under Hannes Meyer. Thirty-five students enrolled for classes the first semester, and an additional forty-five students enrolled for day and night classes for the second semester. Moholy appeared to be realizing his dream of a holistic educational institution that brought together scientists, designers, artists, and humanists in a collaborative effort to achieve unity and “restore balance to our lives.” The New Bauhaus, in Moholy's vision, would train designers to have a sense of “social integration” and fully comprehend their function in the modern world. The Bauhaus ethos was that everyone had latent creative talents that could be drawn out through practice, and just like at the German Bauhaus, the preliminary course was meant to teach students to become conscious of their creative powers by rediscovering the sincere emotions and true observations of their inner child.34

It was not long, however, before Moholy began to encounter resistance to the Bauhaus methodology from the very industrialists on the board of the Association of Arts and Industries who had invited him to the United States in the first place. It also became apparent that, in the context of the enduring economic depression, the Association's initial endowment for the school would not last, and Moholy took it upon himself to tour the industrial cities of the Midwest in search of support for his project, not in the form of gifts but in arrangements for sponsorship and collaboration. He met with some limited success, but Moholy's efforts were not sufficient, and by the summer of 1938 the school's instructors were being informed by the Association, which had apparently lost money in the stock market, that they had better look for work elsewhere. The faculty members pledged their support for Moholy, but it was to no avail. Moholy, who had fled Nazi Germany for Amsterdam, then London, then moved his entire family to Chicago to reestablish the Bauhaus, suddenly had nothing in this strange country. He was forced to take a job as a typography designer for a mail-order catalogue, which he supplemented with the occasional contract design job. In a cruel irony, the journal More Business devoted an entire issue celebrating the work of the New Bauhaus that appeared in November of 1938, just after it was shuttered.35

With the support of several of his close associates from the New Bauhaus faculty, who now found themselves unemployed, Moholy resolved to start his own school without the Association. But he needed help, and he found it in the most sympathetic board member of the Association, Walter Paepcke, who fully understood Moholy's obsession with the interrelatedness of art, science, and industry, according to Sibyl.36

Paepcke was born in Chicago in 1896, the son of a German immigrant. After he had married Elizabeth Nitze and graduated from Yale, he inherited his father's milling and lumber company in 1922. The company also made wooden crates, and Paepcke consolidated it with several companies in the burgeoning paperboard container industry to form the Container Corporation of America (CCA) in 1926. The company provided boxes and other packaging containers of all kinds, for use in wholesale and resale, to all kinds of manufacturers, from cigarette companies to sugar refiners. As demand for packaged, branded goods rose in the first half of the twentieth century, the company expanded dramatically, and Paepcke had a great need for industrial designers. Paepcke hated Roosevelt's New Deal, but he welcomed the end of Prohibition, which was just another packaging opportunity for the corporation. Paepcke's wife, Elizabeth, was a serious art lover, and she cultivated in her husband an interest in both philanthropy and modern art, which would turn out to be deeply relevant to his interest in improving the public image of his company, particularly in the antibusiness climate of the 1930s. Elizabeth made a habit of sharing the German design journal Gebrauchsgraphik with her husband, and eventually she convinced him to refashion CCA's image and embrace “good design” as a fundamental business principle. Accordingly, Paepcke hired an art director, who initiated a total redesign of the corporation, from its stationery to its delivery trucks, which succeeded in creating in the public mind an association of the company with modern design. Even more important in conveying this impression was CCA's institutional advertising of the late 1930s, which employed the works of modern artists such as A. M. Cassandre, Herbert Bayer, Jean Hélion, Fernand Léger, and Man Ray—Moholy's contemporaries in the world of modern design. As historian Victor Margolin has pointed out, Paepcke well understood that his association with the modern art world was not merely an act of philanthropy; it was also a calculated business decision that added value to his company.37

Desperate after the Association abandoned him, Moholy wrote to Paepcke in January 1939 to inform him of his plans to open a new “School of Design” at the end of February, and to ask for his support. Paepcke agreed to help, using his prominence in the business community to begin a campaign to enlist support for the project from foundations and other interested industrialists. Paepcke also provided grants to the school through his own company, and he even offered his rural estate at Somonauk, Illinois, for use as a summer school. Moholy and Paepcke managed to gather a number of prominent supporters for the new school, including John Dewey, the philosopher of progressive education whom Moholy greatly admired; Joseph Hudnut, the dean of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard; the publisher W. W. Norton, and Alfred H. Barr Jr., director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. With the help of a core group of faculty members who agreed to teach for a semester without pay, the School of Design opened on February 22, 1939, in a new location on Ontario Street. In greeting students, Moholy likened the school to an “experimental collective” that would concern itself with the “needs of the community” and “mass production problems.” Following the ethos of the Bauhaus, the corporate charter for the School of Design pledged that it would develop a new system of education based on the “integrated training in arts, science and technology, leading to a thorough consciousness of human needs and of the creative power of the individual student,” and that it would “develop and promote American industry, arts and science, and otherwise to stimulate interest in improving the products of American industry and creating new and useful methods in such industry.”38

As much if not more than the New Bauhaus, the School of Design embodied the moral principles and educational methods of the original German Bauhaus, with its emphasis on uniting art, science, and industry toward the end of good design for mass production. The school's basic course was meant to forge a “working union” among students. The students of the School of Design would learn to produce better furniture and fountain pens, but also better buildings and motion pictures, through their deep appreciation of the essence of things and their ability to develop new “habits of imagination.” They would not be designers of planned obsolescence or novelty for the sake of novelty; rather, their deep consciousness of the relation between form and function would lead them to produce enduring designs of the highest quality. Freed from the “repressions and hindrances” of tradition and the “depressing clichés” of their previous studies, students would be able to produce new forms in a “spirit of co-operation.” Moholy insisted that designers were not merely technicians but also analysts of the production process who understood their important social obligations and their responsibilities to the group. Technology had become part of man's “metabolism,” and the task of the designer was to reevaluate human needs that had been warped by the “machine civilization” and devise solutions not based on tradition but on experimentation with the fundamentals of design. Cooperation between artists, scientists, and technicians was the ideal of the Bauhaus, and, according to Moholy, the designer had a “sociological responsibility which is founded in mass-production.”39

The faculty members of the School of Design participated in the common “work of the community,” guiding students but deliberately not influencing them to imitate their own style. They encouraged students to discard their preconceived notions about what proper art or design should be in an effort to help them get over their inferiority complexes. Breaking down design to the fundamentals in this way reduced it to pure form, which helped students be more creative in their later designs of functional objects and typefaces. Similarly, experimentation with abstract photographs, photograms, and films in György Kepes's “light” workshops led to more creative applications in commercial art and advertising. Early, basic exercises like the sculpting of wood blocks helped students build an appreciation of form and volume that they would draw on in their more advanced designs in the specialized workshops in plastics, textiles, and other materials for mass production. There were no marks or grades at the School of Design; instead, there were exhibitions at the conclusion of the semester in which the teachers would either approve or reject students' designs. As at the Bauhaus, the specialized workshops, which also included exhibition and display, culminated in courses on architecture and urban design.40

Over the next several years, Moholy worked together with Paepcke to promote and sustain the school, winning grants from the Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundation, sponsoring lectures by Gropius and other major figures, and engaging industrialists to support the school. Moholy tended to emphasize the practical benefits of the school when addressing businessmen, while he emphasized its innovative pedagogy before audiences of designers and educators.41 Paepcke organized luncheons to solicit the support of major Chicago businessmen, gaining donations from Marshall Field and Company, Sears Roebuck, United Airlines, and other major Chicago firms. He appealed not only to their sense of civic duty and philanthropy but also to their practical need for skilled designers. The school's workshops produced designs for such varied things as plywood furniture, radio cabinets, lamps, glass tumblers, dishes, jewelry, wire-mesh shock-absorbers, new fabrics, wallpaper, airplane doors, and exhibition rooms for department stores. Some of these designs, such as a tea table for the Artek-Pascoe company of New York, went into mass production, from which the school and its student designers received royalties. The school also offered evening classes to train designers employed by department stores and other Chicago businesses.

The years of the Second World War presented a new challenge to the school, with diminishing enrollment and limited or prohibitively expensive materials. But Moholy established a new niche in the design of camouflage and barbed wire, and by instituting occupational therapy courses organized around the use of specially designed “tactile charts” for the physical and psychological rehabilitation of disabled veterans. Students at the school also developed innovative products such as wooden bedsprings to replace war-rationed metal, a novel design that was manufactured by the Seng Company of Chicago. In addition to his tireless work for the school and several contract jobs, such as serving as art adviser and designer for the Parker Pen Company (for which he designed the elegant “51” pen), Moholy also became involved with a group of exiles called the American Federation of Democratic Hungarians, which sought to return the exiled Mihály Károlyi as prime minister in a democratic Hungary.42

In addition to directing the program of the school while supplementing his income with contract jobs, Moholy also busied himself by constantly raising money for the school. The strain took its toll, and by the spring of 1944 Paepcke had become concerned for Moholy's health and for the long-term financial solvency of the school. He proposed a reorganization that would shift many of the administrative tasks of the director to a board of directors composed of esteemed businessmen, with Paepcke serving as chair, so that Moholy could focus on teaching and curriculum. Through Gropius, with whom he had cultivated a friendship,43 he attempted to convince Moholy of the value of these changes, and he launched a vigorous campaign to gain the support of corporate executives in Chicago. In March, the school officially changed its name to the “Institute of Design” in an effort to align itself with the increasing professionalization of design schools. Moholy was ambivalent about the change, which was ultimately an effort to normalize an instructional program run by professional managers, absent his vision and devotion. The reorganized Institute of Design—with a board of directors, administrative staff, and a public relations officer—standardized its admissions process and offered state-recognized bachelor's degrees in industrial design, textile design, visual arts, advertising design, and photography, and master's degrees in visual arts and architectural design. Moholy had grown tired of convincing the board members and other industrialists of the value of his school and its unorthodox methods, but he did appreciate the creative role of the businessman in American society, even despite individual businessmen's obsession with “efficiency” in the very short term, which did not appreciate the greater long-term social productivity of the Bauhaus. Nevertheless, the members of the new board became wary of the school's approach, which some viewed as a kind of unorganized cult devoted to one master, Moholy.44

An eternal optimist, Moholy continued to advocate for the principles that motivated his educational program and approach to industrial design, which was not limited to vocational training but was a greater effort to create a “nucleus” for future education. He disliked the American tendency for fads and designed obsolescence, and he believed that his school was an important institution for instilling in students a sensitivity to the broader social implications of good design, which could overcome superficial style. “The goal,” Moholy wrote, “is not to turn artists into designers or designers into artists; rather, to develop all the creative potentialities of the student by producing a rhythm between his individual biological capacities, the requirements of society, and the industrial milieu.”45 In short, Moholy wanted to teach designers and industrialists alike to appreciate the social responsibilities inherent in their work. Despite resistance from many conservative businessmen, Moholy remained grateful for the help of Paepcke, the “enlightened industrialist,” who saved the school more than once from closing. Moholy himself was known for his generous nature: contract design work allowed him to sometimes donate his own salary to his school, and he readily gave money and even clothes to friends in need.46

Moholy learned that he had leukemia in November 1945, and by the following summer he was beginning to consider his successor in the case that he could not continue on as director. Despite his illness he did not stop working the last year of his life, and he reaffirmed his commitment to the communitarian principles of the Bauhaus pedagogy. Even when he was bedridden from radiation treatments, he was working on the manuscript for his magnum opus, Vision in Motion, which was published posthumously in 1947. The book explained in great detail the theory and method behind Moholy's work in Chicago at the New Bauhaus, the School of Design, and the Institute of Design. He emphasized what it was that made European design distinct from American design: the latter could afford to be wasteful through superficial styling and planned obsolescence, but the former aimed to produce long-lasting goods. Relative to the narrow American view, the Bauhaus held to an expansive concept of design that integrated the social and the technological and promoted thinking not in isolation but in terms of relationships. Ultimately, design was planning, and it carried serious social obligations with it. “Thus,” Moholy concluded, “quality of design is dependent not alone on function, science, and technological process, but also upon social consciousness.”47

That central European sensibility, forged in the radical social experiments that followed the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, had certain applications in the American context, which corporations were happy to exploit, but ultimately that fundamental social element was lost. While Gropius had chosen Moholy in the early years of the Weimar Republic for his practicality and objectivity relative to the subjective and expressionistic Johannes Itten, in the American context Moholy's methods of design education were viewed with persistent skepticism by businessmen who saw themselves as eminently practical, even when the evidence of their many design failures contradicted that vision. Moholy believed this bias against artists was ultimately unfortunate:

“The success theory of the profit economy pays a high premium to the anti-artist. Artists are considered effeminates who do not have the stamina to participate in economic competition. This is very tragic, since art is the only field where convention does not completely impair sentiment, and where the omnipotence of thought and independence of emotion are kept relatively intact. No society can exist without expressing its ideas, and no culture and no ethics will survive without participation of the artist who cannot be bribed.”48


The Institute of Design lost not only students but also teachers to the war effort, but Moholy's camouflage and rehabilitation courses managed to keep the school afloat. Enrollment shot up dramatically when the war ended, thanks largely to the G. I. Bill, reaching 461 students by the spring of 1946.49 Yet the prospect of a merger with a larger institution had loomed at least since the summer of 1942,50 and talks accelerated after the School of Design was reorganized as the Institute of Design, and even while Moholy was suffering from treatments for his leukemia.51 Talks accelerated once again in 1948, as enrollment slumped and Paepcke grew tired of trying to convince businessmen of the need to support the school.52 Merger discussions became very serious in the fall of 1949, when the Institute of Design prepared a preliminary draft of consolidation with the Illinois Institute of Technology, where former Bauhaus director and enemy of Moholy Mies van der Rohe headed the architecture department.53 Moholy's widow Sibyl, who had taught at the institute after Moholy's death but left after a feud with his replacement, Serge Chermayeff, raged when she heard of the merger: “It's a mealticket for Serge and 3 of his cronies, and the rest goes to hell, is wiped out.”54 But plans for the merger were publicly announced on November 10th, and on November 22nd, the board of the Institute of Design formally approved the merger with IIT.55 The Institute of Design remains as a school of IIT to this day.

As Moholy's health declined, Walter Paepcke began cultivating a friendship and professional relationship with another alumnus of the German Bauhaus, the Austrian Herbert Bayer, after Paepcke and his wife had already grown close with Walter and Ise Gropius. Paepcke enlisted Bayer as the designer of an exhibit of the Container Corporation's advertisements in March 1945, which was rapidly assembled in less than two months.56 The exhibit, “Modern Art in Advertising,” opened on April 27, 1945, at the Art Institute of Chicago, and it was a smashing success.57 Paepcke soon ingratiated Bayer and his wife, Joella, at his ranch in Aspen, Colorado, which at the time was a derelict old mining town, but which Paepcke compared to Switzerland or the Bavarian Alps and envisioned as an elegant ski resort for artists, intellectuals, and businessmen.58 Paepcke was buying up hotels and other property in the town, and he encouraged Bayer to move there permanently, where he could earn a retainer by overseeing design projects for the Container Corporation.59 Paepcke was eventually successful in his relentless entreaties to convince Herbert and Joella Bayer to settle in Aspen and work for CCA.60 In September 1953, Gebrauchsgraphik, the very art journal that Elizabeth Paepcke had shared with Walter to pique his interest in modern design in the 1930s, devoted an entire issue to Herbert Bayer's work for the Container Corporation.61 And in 1954, the Container Corporation published an extraordinary book, the World Geo-Graphic Atlas, which Bayer, who was not trained as a cartographer, had begun working on in Aspen in 1947. CCA distributed the book free of charge to libraries, museums, and to its customers.62

If anyone is responsible for the development of Aspen as a world-class resort town, it is Walter Paepcke. Paepcke staged a festival in Aspen honoring the bicentennial of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's birth in 1949,63 and he established an International Design Conference there in 1951 featuring Bayer, who had become the town's “designer-in-residence.”64 The Austrian artist had taken up residence in Paepcke's fantasy Tyrol.


An earlier version of this paper was presented at the “New Perspectives on Central European and Transatlantic Migration, 1800-2000” conference, hosted by the Institute for Advanced Studies at Central European University and the Botstiber Institute for Austrian-American Studies, March 8-10, 2018, in Budapest, Hungary.


László Moholy-Nagy usually signed his writings “L. Moholy-Nagy,” and he was referred to by his friends, family, and colleagues simply as “Moholy.” Contemporary primary sources such as art journals and magazines refer to him interchangeably as “Moholy” or “Moholy-Nagy,” while secondary histories, particularly in the field of art, tend to refer to him as “Moholy-Nagy”—but they sometimes also use “Moholy.” I will use the names interchangeably in this article, but with preference for “Moholy” for the sake of brevity.


“Moholy-Nagy, 51, Director of Design Institute, Dies,” Chicago Sun, November 25, 1946; Edgar Kaufmann Jr., “Moholy,” Arts and Architecture 64 (March 1947): 25; Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy: Experiment in Totality, 2nd edition (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1969), 241–43; Walter Gropius, The New Architecture and the Bauhaus, trans. P. Morton Shand (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1935), 37–38; 44–47; Victor Margolin, The Struggle for Utopia: Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy, 1917–1946 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 217, 245–46.


See, for example, the articles collected in exhibition catalogues such as Achim Borchard-Hume, ed., Albers and Moholy-Nagy: From the Bauhaus to the New World (London: Tate Publishing, 2006). Major works in this vein include Krisztina Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, trans. Éva Grusz et al. (London: Thames and Hudson, 1985); Oliver A. I. Botar, Technical Detours: The Early Moholy-Nagy Reconsidered (New York: Art Gallery of The Graduate Center, The City University of New York; and The Salgo Trust for Education, 2006); and Margolin, Struggle. The most comprehensive histories of Moholy and the New Bauhaus are Alain Findeli, Le Bauhaus de Chicago: L'oeuvre pédagogique de László Moholy-Nagy (Sillery, Québec: Septentrion, 1995); and Lloyd C. Engelbrecht, Moholy-Nagy: Mentor to Modernism (Cincinnati: Flying Trapeze Press, 2009).


A similar, but somewhat novelistic, approach is taken by James Sloan Allen in the first two chapters of The Romance of Commerce and Culture: Capitalism, Modernism, and the Chicago-Aspen Crusade for Cultural Reform (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983).


Botar writes Karolina's family name as “Stern” (Technical, 18), although Passuth (Moholy-Nagy, 13) and Findeli (Bauhaus, 22) (who may have used Passuth as his source) write “Stein.”


Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 13; “Reminiscences of Jenő Nagy, brother of László Moholy-Nagy,” Interview, October 25, 1975, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 384, 433 (endnote); Richard Kostelanetz, ed., Moholy-Nagy (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970), xv; Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Experiment, 5–7; Moholy-Nagy, letter to Antal Németh, July 18, 1924, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 395–96; Botar, Technical, 18–26, 178; Findeli, Bauhaus, 22–23.


Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 10–14; “Reminiscences of Jenő Nagy, Brother of László Moholy-Nagy,” in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 384–5; “Excerpt from Moholy-Nagy's Diary,” Mayt 15, 1919, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 386–7; Moholy-Nagy, letter to Antal Németh, July 18, 1924, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 395–6; Botar, Technical, 21–35, 179.


Botar, Technical, 50–55.


Moholy's brother disputed this, suggesting that the communists accepted anyone who wanted to join. “Reminiscences of Jenő Nagy, Brother of László Moholy-Nagy,” Interview, October 25, 1975, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 386. Botar (Technical, 56–57) suggests that Moholy's well-to-do background may have made him something of an outsider in his communist circle.


Lloyd C. Engelbrecht, “The Association of Arts and Industries: Background and Origins of the Bauhaus Movement in Chicago” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1973), 239–47; Thomas Dyja, The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream (New York: Penguin, 2013), 44; Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy, 5–15; Hilton Kramer, “In Chicago: A Moholy-Nagy Comprehensive Show,” New York Times, June 2, 1969; “L. Moholy-Nagy,” n.d. [ca. 1946], box 1, folder 17, Myron Kozman Papers, Richard J. Daley Library Special Collections and University Archives, The University of Illinois at Chicago [hereafter, “UIC”]; László Moholy-Nagy, The New Vision and Abstract of an Artist, trans. Daphne M. Hoffman (New York: Wittenborn, Schultz, 1947), 68–71; Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 17; L. Moholy-Nagy, “Design Potentialities,” from Paul Zucker, ed., New Architecture and City Planning (New York: Philosophical Library, 1944), 675–87, in Kostelanetz, Moholy-Nagy, 81–90.


Anna Wessely, “An Exile's Career from Budapest through Weimar to Chicago: László Moholy-Nagy,” in Exile, Science, and Bildung: The Contested Legacies of German Emigre Intellectuals, eds. David Kettler and Gerhard Lauer (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 76–81; Botar, Technical, 62–86.


Lucia also became the breadwinner of the household with a job at a publishing house. Botar, Technical, 91.


Achim Borchardt-Hume, “Two Bauhaus Histories,” in Borchardt-Hume, Albers and Moholy-Nagy, 67–72; Kostelanetz, Moholy-Nagy, xv; Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Experiment, 15–17; Lucia Moholy, Marginalien zu Moholy-Nagy/Moholy-Nagy, Marginal Notes (Krefeld: Scherpe Verlag, 1972), 51–55; Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 18, 37; Moholy-Nagy, letter to Iván Hevesy, April 5, 1920, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 388; Botar, Technical, 88–92.


L. Moholy-Nagy, “Dynamics of a Metropolis: A Film Sketch,” ca. 1921–22, in Kostelanetz, Moholy-Nagy, 123; Botar, Technical, 105–6.


Moholy claimed that he did not know about Man Ray's “Rayographs” when he first experimented with photograms. See L. Moholy-Nagy, letter to Beaumont Newhall, April 7, 1937, reprinted in Kostelanetz, Moholy-Nagy, 57. Just as the photogram produced images directly on photosensitive paper, Moholy proposed the production of music by means of the direct incision of grooves on phonographic discs. L. Moholy-Nagy, “Neue Gestaltung in der Musik: Möglichkeiten des Grammophons,” Der Sturm, July 1923, no. 14, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 291.


Although Moholy later recounted that he had ordered these industrially produced artworks over the telephone, Lucia Moholy writes that, after having received the pictures that were done to his precise specifications, an enthusiastic Moholy exclaimed, Dada-like, that he “might have even done it over the telephone.” It was, she posits, his “telescopic mind” that collapsed all time to the present and permitted him to take such liberties with the facts if they might suit his ideological and pedagogical aims. Lucia Moholy, Marginalien, 75–76; Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 32.


Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy, 16–32; László Moholy-Nagy, New Vision, 76–80; Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 18–20; “El Lissitzky,” Moscow, letter to Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers, September 15, 1925, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 391, 434.


Margolin, Struggle, 45–53.


Wessely, “Exile's Career,” 82.


Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 20–34; Ernő Kállai, “Moholy-Nagy,” Ma 9 (1921): 119, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 412–13; “Position Statement of the Group MA in Vienna to the First Congress of Progressive Artists in Düsseldorf, German (1921),” in Kostelanetz, 186–87; Moholy Nagy, “Az új tartalom és az új forma problémájáról,” Akasztott Ember 3–4 (1922): 3, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 287–88; Margolin, Struggle, 63–75; Botar, Technical, 156–58.


Engelbrecht, “Association,” 249; Kostelanetz, Moholy-Nagy, xv; Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 30; Eckart von Sydow, “Hannover—Ausstellungsrevue,” Der Cicerone (1923): 485, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 485; Botar, Technical, 92, 122–23, 130–1; Allen, Romance, 50.


László Moholy-Nagy, New Vision, 5; Gropius, New Architecture, 33–51; Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy, 34–35; Hans M. Wingler, The Bauhaus: Weimar Dessau Berlin Chicago, trans. Wolfgang Jabs and Basil Gilbert, ed. Joseph Stein (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1969), 6; Walter Gropius, “Design and Industry,” address at Blackstone Hotel, April 17, 1950, box 4, folder 114, Institute of Design Collection [hereafter, “ID”], UIC; Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 39; Walter Gropius, “László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946),” from his eulogy at the funeral of Moholy-Nagy, November, 1946, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 432.


L. Moholy-Nagy, “Das Bauhaus in Dessau,” Qualität 4, no. 5/6 (May/June 1925), in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 295–99.


Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 42–43; Moholy-Nagy, letter to Alexander Rodchenko, December 18, 1923, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 392-93; Lucia Moholy, Moholy-Nagy, 84–86; Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Painting, Photography, Film, trans. Janet Seligman (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1969).


Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy, 37; Gropius, New Architecture, 60–65; László Moholy-Nagy, New Vision, 6, 11–22; L. Moholy-Nagy, “Education and the Bauhaus,” Focus 2 (London, Winter, 1938), in Kostelanetz, Moholy-Nagy, 163–70.


Allen, Romance, 53.


L. Moholy-Nagy, “Problems of the Modern Film,” Cahiers d'Art 7, no. 6–7 (1932), reprinted in Kostelanetz, Moholy-Nagy, 131–38.


Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 52–59; “In Answer to Your Interview,” Little Review (May 1929), in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 404; Kostelanetz, Moholy-Nagy, xvi; L. Moholy-Nagy, “Lichtrequisit einer elektrischen Bühne,” Die Form 5, nos. 11–12 (1930), in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 310; L. Moholy-Nagy, “Az új film problémái,” Korunk 10 (1930): 712–19, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 315; L. Moholy-Nagy, “Fényjátek-film,” Korunk 12 (1931): 866–67, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 316; L. Moholy-Nagy, “Festészet és fényképészet,” Korunk 2 (1932): 104–5, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 318–19;


Wingler, Bauhaus, 9–11; Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy, 85–138; L. Moholy-Nagy, “The Bauhaus Problem Today,” statement given at Dessau, January 1928, box 7, folder 209, ID, UIC; L. Moholy Nagy, letter to Herbert Read, January 24, 1934, in Kostelanetz, Moholy-Nagy, 19; Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 61–62; Terence A Senter, “Moholy-Nagy: The Transitional Years,” in Borchardt-Hume, Albers and Moholy-Nagy, 85–91; L. Moholy-Nagy, letter to Fra. Kalivoda, ca. 1934, published in Telehor (Brno, 1936), trans. F. D. Klingender and P. Morton Shand, reprinted in Kostelanetz, Moholy-Nagy, 37–41.


Terence A. Senter, “Moholy-Nagy: The Transitional Years,” in Borchardt-Hume, Albers and Moholy-Nagy, 85–91; Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Experiment, 130–33; Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 62.


Walter Gropius to Norma K. Stahle, May 18, 1937, reprinted in Wingler, Bauhaus, 192.


Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy, 139–50; “Bauhaus Will Open in Chicago in Fall,” New York Times, August 22, 1937; “Gropius Aide Here to Run Art School,” New York Times, September 2, 1937; “American School of Design to Open Here this Fall,” Chicago News, August 23, 1937; “The New Bauhaus, American School of Design,” catalog, 1937–38, ca. 1937, box 3, folder 53, ID, UIC.


A lack of funds for salaries and trouble acquiring visas, however, made it impossible for Moholy to recruit as many Bauhaus alumni, such as Alexander (“Xanti”) Schawinsky, as he would have liked. Robert J. Wolff, “From Prairie Avenue to Ontario Street—1938–39,” n.d., box 7, folder 209, ID, UIC; Illustration, February 1941, box 6, folder 172, ID, UIC; Allen, Romance, 58.


“The New Bauhaus, American School of Design,” catalog, 1937–38, ca. 1937, box 3, folder 53, ID, UIC; “The New Bauhaus, American School of Design,” catalog, 1938–39, ca. 1938, box 3, folder 54, ID, UIC; Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy, 150–56; “exhibition: Work from the Preliminary Course, 1937–1938, The New Bauhaus, American School of Design, 1905 Prairie Avenue, Chicago, Illinois; Founded in 1937 by the Association of Arts and Industries,” ca. 1938, box 3, folder 56, ID, UIC; Allen, Romance, 58–60; Margolin, Struggle, 222–23.


Moholy would later successfully sue the Association for breach of contract, but he was ultimately awarded the mortgage on the school building in lieu of cash. Edna Vergonet to Henry H. Smith, August 16, 1938, box 7, folder 203, ID, UIC; Norma K. Stahle to George Fred Keck, September 12, 1938, box 7, folder 203, ID, UIC; Grace B. Seelig to Henry Holmes Smith, September 27, 1938, box 7, folder 203, ID, UIC; “New Bauhaus School Closes; Director Sues,” Chicago Tribune, October 16, 1938; Charles Morris to Henry Holmes Smith, October 16, 1938, box 7, folder 203, ID, UIC; Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy, 156–63; “Moholy-Nagy to Sándor Bortnyik,” January 24, 1939, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 406–7; Wingler, Bauhaus, 196–97.


Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, “The Chicago Years,” transcribed from an address at a retrospective exhibition, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, May, 1969, in Kostelanetz, Moholy-Nagy, 22–26.


Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy, 164–66; [unidentified clipping], n.d., box 1, folder 1, Walter P. Paepcke Papers [hereafter, “WPP”], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library [hereafter, “UC”]; Walter P. Paepcke to Spencer Trask & Co., E. H. Rollins & Sons, New York, February 7, 1928, box 1, folder 4, WPP, UC; “Money Talks,” transcript of radio broadcast on WMAQ, April 7, 1937, box 1, folder 6, WPP, UC; “Containers: Paperboard Is Money-Maker for Paepcke Firm,” News-Week, July 31, 1937; “Walter Paepcke, Art Patron, Dies,” The New York Times, April 14, 1960; Allen, Romance, 17–31; Margolin, Struggle, 238.


L. Moholy-Nagy to Walter P. Paepcke, January 25, 1939, box 61, folder 1, WPP, UC; L. Moholy-Nagy to Walter P. Paepcke, February 24, 1939, box 61, folder 1, WPP, UC; Walter P. Paepcke to Henry Allen Moe, November 30, 1939, box 61, folder 1, WPP; Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy, 166–75; Light and Vision: Photography at the School of Design in Chicago, 1937–1952 [exhibition catalogue] (Chicago: Stephen Daiter Photography, 1994); Charles Morris to Lloyd Engelbrecht, June 3, 1968, box 7, folder 196, ID, UIC; L. Moholy-Nagy to Henry Holmes Smith, February 3, 1939, box 7, folder 203, ID, UIC; “Application for a Corporate Charter in the State of Illinois, for the Founding of the School of Design,” ca. 1939, box 1, folder 3, ID, UIC; “2 Summer Sessions of the School of Design, July 10 – August 18, 1939, 247 East Ontario Street, Chicago, Illinois and Somonauk, Illinois,” brochure, box 3, folder 65, ID, UIC; Walter P. Paepcke to “Gentlemen” [probably the board of directors of ID, with “Att: L. Moholy-Nagy, Pres.”], November 1, 1944, box 6, folder 184, ID, UIC; Alain Findeli, “Design Education and Industry: The Laborious Beginnings of the Institute of Design in Chicago in 1944,” Journal of Design History 4, no. 2 (1991): 97–113.


“School of Design,” catalog, 1939–40, ca. 1939, box 3, folder 62, ID, UIC; Millar's Chicago Letter 2, no. 23 (August 5, 1940), box 9, folder 261, ID, UIC; L. Moholy-Nagy to Walter Paepcke, January 7, 1943, box 6, folder 183, ID, UIC; L. Moholy-Nagy, “New Trends in Design,” Interiors (April 1943): 48–51, 67–68; L. Moholy-Nagy, “New Education: Organic Approach,” Art and Industry (March 1946) [reprint], box 6, folder 187, ID, UIC; L. Moholy-Nagy, “Art in Industry: Part Two,” Arts and Architecture (1947), box 6, folder 188, ID, UIC.


“School of Design in Chicago, L. Moholy-Nagy, Director, Day and Evening Classes, 1940–41,” brochure, box 3, folder 67, ID, UIC; “School of Design in Chicago,” catalog, 1941–42, ca. 1941, box 3, folder 63, ID, UIC; “Evening Session: School of Design in Chicago,” 1941–42, box 3, folder 71, ID, UIC.


Margolin, Struggle, 239–40.


“Report of the Progress of The School of Design in Chicago under the Grant of the Carnegie Corporation of New York of $10,000,” February 1, 1940, box 1, folder 14, ID, UIC; Walter P. Paepcke to Mr. J. J. Finlay, May 29, 1940, box 2, folder 33, ID, UIC; Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy, 183–87; Walter Paepcke, “Form Letter A, School of Design Fund Campaign 1942,” box 2, folder 34, ID, UIC; “December 1, 1943 – March 30, 1944 Contributions to The Institute of Design,” box 1, folder 14, ID, UIC; Walter Paepcke to Mr. E. P. Brooks, December 29, 1943, box 2, folder 38, ID, UIC; “Outline of the Camouflage Course at the School of Design in Chicago 1941–1942,” box 3, folder 64, ID, UIC; “Two Summer Sessions of the School of Design in Chicago: Summer Vacation with a Purpose, June 21 – August 1,” flyer, 1943, box 3, folder 77, ID, UIC; Betty Prosser, “Design for Wartime Living and When Peace Comes,” Associated Press article, ca. June 1943, box 6, folder 183, ID, UIC; L. Moholy-Nagy, “Better than Before: Proposal Is Made for a Program of Rehabilitation of Handicapped People by Techniques Involving Efforts to Employ All Capabilities of the Individual,” The Technology Review (November 1943): 21–23, 42–50; L. Moholy-Nagy to Dr. F.P. Keppel, January 7, 1943, box 6, folder 183, ID, UIC; L. Moholy-Nagy to Mr. Lester, September 27, 1941, box 6, folder 183, ID, UIC; “Wooden Springs Ease Tension on Furniture Men,” Chicago Daily News, July 9, 1942; “Wooden Springs,” Business Week, October 31, 1942, 35–36; Walter P. Paepcke to Mr. B. L. Robbins, January 25, 1946, box 2, folder 42, ID, UIC.


Paepcke also cultivated a close relationship with Bauhaus alumnus Herbert Bayer, who would become one of his key collaborators in developing the mountain resort town of Aspen, Colorado. Walter Paepcke to Walter Gropius, June 15, 1945, box 2, folder 40, ID, UIC; Walter Paepcke to Suzie Hamill, June 27, 1945, box 2, folder 40, Institute of Design; Walter P. Paepcke to Robert N. S. Whitelaw, July 30, 1945, box 2, folder 42, ID, UIC; Walter Paepcke to Herbert Bayer, June 15, 1945, box 2, folder 38, ID, UIC; Walter Gropius to Walter P. Paepcke, October 30, 1945, box 8, folder 227, ID, UIC.


Walter P. Paepcke to L. Moholy-Nagy, April 4, 1944, box 6, folder 184, ID, UIC; Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy, 213–19; “Minutes of Adjourned Joint Annual Meeting of the Board of Directors and Members of School of Design,” March 27, 1944, box 1, folder 10, Institute of Design, UIC; L. Moholy-Nagy to Myron Kozman, April 10, 1944, box 1, folder 2, Myron Kozman Papers, UIC; L. Moholy-Nagy to Walter Paepcke, June 23, 1944, box 6, folder 183, ID, UIC; L. Moholy-Nagy to Robert J. Wolff, March 20, 1945, box 7, folder 209, ID, UIC; Zay Smith to W. A. Patterson, July 16, 1945, box 2, folder 37, ID, UIC; “Institute of Design,” catalog, 1945–46, box 3, folder 86, ID, UIC; Walter Gropius to Walter Paepcke, February 28, 1945, box 8, folder 227, ID, UIC; Allen, Romance, 67–69.


L. Moholy-Nagy, “Art in Industry,” Arts and Architecture 9–10 (1947), in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 357.


“Moholy-Nagy to Nikolaus Pevsner,” March 8, 1943, in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 407–8; Moholy-Nagy to Jenő Nagy, April 11, 1946; Xanti Schawinsky to Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, August 25, 1948; L. Moholy-Nagy, “Design Potentialities,” from Paul Zucker, ed., New Architecture and City Planning (New York: Philosophical Library, 1944), 675–87, quoted in Kostelanetz, Moholy-Nagy, 81–90; L. Moholy-Nagy, “Industrial Design,” Parker Pen Shoptalker, June 1946, in Kostelanetz, Moholy-Nagy, 91–92.


L. Moholy-Nagy, Vision in Motion (Paul Theobald and Company, 1965) [7th printing; orig. 1947], 33–55; L. Moholy-Nagy to Walter Paepcke, July 31, 1946, box 6, folder 183, ID, UIC; L. Moholy-Nagy to Walter Paepcke, November 21, 1946, box 6, folder 183, ID, UIC.


Catalogue for the retrospective exhibition sponsored by the Contemporary Arts Society at the Art Museum in Cincinnati, February, 1946, quoted in Moholy-Nagy, Experiment in Totality, 214.


“Minutes of the Board of Directors Meeting of the Institute of Design,” March 5, 1946, box 1, folder 6, ID, UIC.


Henry T. Heald to Walter P. Paepcke, June 22, 1942, box 1, folder 28, ID, UIC.


“Perhaps we can keep the matter in the forefront of our minds even though a little inactively until Moholy has advanced a little farther in his recovery,” wrote Paepcke in a letter to the president of the Illinois Institute of Technology. Walter Paepcke to Henry T. Heald, December 21, 1945, box 2, folder 40, ID, UIC.


Serge Chermayeff, letter to Mr. Wingler, September 29, 1967, box 5, folder 165, ID, UIC.


“Preliminary Draft for April 17 I. I. T. Publication,” n.d., ca. November 1949, box 4, folder 112, ID, UIC.


Sibyl Moholy-Nagy to Robert J. Wolff, November 4, 1949, ox 7, folder 209, ID, UIC.


“Institute of Design Minutes of Special Meeting of The Board of Directors,” November 22, 1949, box 1, folder 7, ID, UIC.


Walter Paepcke, telegraph to Elizabeth Paepcke, March 2, 1945, box 96, folder 9, WPP, UC.


Allen, Romance, 70–71.


Walter Paepcke to Herbert Bayer, May 22, 1945, box 3, folder 8, WPP, UC.


Walter Paepcke to Herbert and Joella Bayer, June 14, 1945, box 3, folder 8, WPP, UC; Walter Paepcke to Herbert and Joella Bayer, November 15, 1945, box 96, folder 9, WPP, UC.


Herbert and Joella Bayer, telegram to Walter Paepcke, January 6, 1946; Walter Paepcke to Herbert and Joella Bayer, January 14, 1946, box 96, folder 10, WPP, UC; Walter Paepcke to Joella and Herbert Bayer, February 1, 1946, box 96, folder 10, WPP, UC.


J. S. Doughty, memorandum to Walter P. Paepcke, January 1953, box 30, folder 8, WPP, UC.


Groff Conklin, “Container Corporation's ‘World Geo-Graphic Atlas,’” Publisher's Weekly, June 5, 1954, 2504–12.


Sally Luther, “Art-Loving Businessman Pushes ‘Small Town’ Trend,” Minneapolis Star, November 19, 1948.


R. Hunter Middleton and Alexander Ebin, “Impressions from the Design Conference Held at Aspen, Colorado, June 28 through July 1, 1951,” box 15, folder 734, International Design Conference in Aspen Collection, UIC.

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