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László Moholy-Nagy 1895–1946
Oil paint and graphite on canvas
Support: 1153 × 1359 mm
frame: 1308 × 1512 × 80 mm
Purchased 1961

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The 'K' in the title of K VII stands for the German word Konstruktion (‘construction’), and the painting's ordered, geometrical forms are typical of Moholy-Nagy’s technocratic Utopianism. The year after it was painted, he was appointed to teach the one year-preliminary course at the recently founded Bauhaus in Weimar. Moholy-Nagy’s appointment signalled a major shift in the school’s philosophy away from its earlier crafts ethos towards a closer alignment with the demands of modern industry, and a programme of simple design and unadorned functionalism.

Gallery label, April 2012

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Catalogue entry

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy 1895-1946

T00432 K VII 1922

Inscribed 'Moholy | K VII | 1922' on back of canvas
Oil on canvas, 45 3/8 x 53 1/2 (115.5 x 136)
Purchased from the Marlborough New London Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1961
Prov: Dr Klihm (of the Galerie Klihm), Munich (purchased from the artist's estate); with Marlborough New London Gallery, London
Exh: Bauhaus-Ausstellung, Weimar, July-September 1923 (no catalogue); [?Juryfreie Kunstschau, Berlin, December 1924 (968)]; Wege und Richtungen der abstrakten Malerei in Europa, Kunsthalle, Mannheim, January-March 1927 (215); L. Moholy-Nagy, Kunstmuseum, D?sseldorf, February-April 1961 (16, repr.); Moholy-Nagy, New London Gallery, London, May-June 1961 (15, repr.); Moholy-Nagy, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, January-March 1967 (A7); Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, March-April 1967 (A7); Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal, May-June 1967 (A7); 50 Jahre Bauhaus, Wurttembergischen Kunstverein, Stuttgart, May-July 1968 (painting, sculpture, graphics section 191); Bauhaus: 50 Years, RA, London, September-October 1968 (painting, sculpture, graphics section 165); 50 Jaar Bauhaus, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, November 1968-January 1969 (painting, sculpture, graphics section 165); Bauhaus 1919-1969, Mus?e National d'Art Moderne, Paris, April-June 1969 (painting, sculpture, graphics section 165)
Repr: John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery (London 1966), p.258

Painted when the artist was living in Berlin and possibly included in his first one-man exhibition at the art gallery Der Sturm there in the winter of 1922, which led to his appointment as a professor at the Bauhaus. That it was afterwards included in the Bauhaus exhibition at Weimar in the summer of 1923 is proved by a photograph of the Moholy-Nagy room, which shows it hanging on the wall. It may also have figured in his one-man exhibition at the Galerie Hans Goltz Neue Kunst in Munich in 1929, as it has a label of this gallery on the back.

According to Mrs Sibyl Moholy-Nagy: 'The painting is most characteristic for the period in the artist's development when he translated his research into pictorial non-perspective space from paper collages on the canvas. He refers in one of his later articles to the problem of "luminous layers rather than dense planes of vision"' (letter of 8 October 1969).

Moholy-Nagy's system of titling is rather unclear, but his first wife, Mrs Lucia Moholy, writes (letter of 6 July 1962): 'If my memory serves me, the "K" in the title stands for the German equivalent of "Construction" (Konstruktion), not for Canvas, which in those days was more likely to be represented by "L" (Leinwand). Whether the figure "VII" in the title was a reference to current or annual numbers is hard to say, considering the early date of the painting.' That the 'K' stands for 'Konstruktion' is supported by the fact that a picture by Moholy-Nagy, probably this one, was exhibited at the Juryfreie Kunstschau in Berlin in 1924 as 'Konstruktion KVII', and that several paintings of a similar kind were reproduced in the Jahrbuch der jungen Kunst in 1924, pp.183-4, 187 as 'Konstruktion V10' 1923, 'Konstruktion IIc' 1922, etc.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.531-2, reproduced p.531

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