László Moholy-Nagy Untitled 1946

László Moholy-Nagy
Untitled 1946
Collection Hattula Moholy-Nagy

While Moholy never abandoned his preoccupation with the effects of light and reflection, his late work shows a new attention to colour. Works such as CH ForY Space Modulator 1942 and CH for R1Space Modulator 1942 attempt to translate the light play of the Light Prop, Moholy’s kinetic sculpture displayed in Room 5, into chromatic values.

This was, however, a time of personal and political crisis. Moholy was ill with the leukaemia that would eventually lead to his premature death, at the age of 51, in November 1946. He was also deeply troubled by the first atomic explosion over Hiroshima, Japan in August 1945. For the first time since the early 1920s, he gave his paintings descriptive titles, rather than combinations of letters and numbers. Nuclear I, CH 1945 and Nuclear II 1946 show the globe as seen from outer space, seemingly afloat in an undetermined setting. Nuclear I, CH betrays a surprising contrast between the apocalyptic subject matter and the joyful use of colour.

Moholy produced numerous drawings during the last months of his life, many of them while he was confined to his bed. The rapid pencil strokes, with their sense of urgency, hint at the restless mind of an artist all too aware of his own mortality. The predominant subject matter of the drawings suggests that Moholy saw a correlation between his failing health and the onset of the nuclear age, and yet their vibrant sense of colour attests to the undeterred optimism with which he faced both.