László Moholy-Nagy (American, born Hungary, 1895–1946)
Gelatin silver print
9 7/16 x 7 1/16 in. (23.9 x 17.9 cm)
Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.158)
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Moholy-Nagy played a key role at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau as a painter, graphic artist, teacher, and impassioned advocate of avant-garde photography. He made this image without a camera by placing his hand, a paintbrush, and other objects on a sheet of photographic paper and exposing it to light. While this simple process was practiced by photography's founders in the nineteenth century and was later popularized as a child's amusement, avant-garde artists of the twentieth century revived the photogram technique as a means for exploring the optical and expressive properties of light. With this shadow image of a hand and paintbrush, Moholy-Nagy ambitiously suggests that photography may incorporate, and even transcend, painting as the most vital medium of artistic expression in the modern age.