In 1920, the 32 year-old Josef Albers abandoned his academic arts education to start afresh as a student at the Bauhaus in Weimar, a decision he later described as ‘the best step I made in life’. Shortly thereafter, Albers began to make collages assembled from found pieces of broken glass. These early works demonstrate his intense fascination with materials. The earliest compositions in glass, such as Rhenish Legend 1921, are comparatively raw, with the individual glass pieces held in place by a combination of copper wire and putty. In Park c.1924, on the other hand, Albers used precise squares of ready-cut glass from glass suppliers that he partly overpainted, and this work shows an increased tendency towards system and order.
Around the same time that Albers joined the Bauhaus, Moholy left his native Hungary, first for Vienna, then Berlin. His experiences on the Russian front in the First World War had shocked him into abandoning his law studies to pursue a career as an artist. From the outset, Moholy aligned himself with progressive modernist movements.
Paintings such as The Big Wheel 1920–1, with its letters and numbers and diagram-like structure, and Black Quarter Circle with Red Stripes 1921, with its seemingly translucent planes, show Moholy’s distinctive take on Dada and Constructivism. This period also saw Moholy’s first experiments with camera-less photography, describing his so-called photograms as ‘painting with light’. By arranging mundane objects such as spring coils and cog wheels into geometric compositions and exposing specially coated photographic paper to light of varying intensities, Moholy created ghost-like images of peculiar intensity.