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A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939

  • Six years after her arrival in London, the photographer Lucia Moholy published her book [i]A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939[/i], on the occasion of the centenary of photography.
  • Book
  • A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939

    Word Count: 5

  • Lucia Moholy
  • 1939
  • 1939
  • Lucia Moholy, 39 Mecklenburgh Square, Bloomsbury, London WC1.

  • London (GB)
  • Six years after her arrival in London, the photographer Lucia Moholy published her book A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939, on the occasion of the centenary of photography.

    Word Count: 27

  • Already since the early 1930s and while still living in Berlin, the Bauhaus photographer Lucia Moholy (1894–1989) had explored the early history of photography. A foundation for her work was the historical photo collection of the collector and author Erich Stenger (Sachsse 1985, 53). From 1934, Moholy lived in London and worked as, among other things, a portrait photographer with her own residential studio in Mecklenburgh Square in Bloomsbury. In 1937, the Bauhaus textile artist Otti Berger lived with her for a time. On the occasion of the upcoming centenary of photography, Lucia Moholy was commissioned in 1938 to write the survey work A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939, which was published a year later as a paperback by Penguin Books in the “Pelican Specials” series. The bibliography lists many relevant survey works on the history of photography: Gisèle Freund’s socio-historically oriented dissertation La Photographie en France au dix-neuvième Siècle (1936), Photography. A short critical history by Beaumont Newhall (1938), Heinrich Schwarz’s book on David Octavius Hill (1931), Erich Stenger’s Geschichte der Photographie (History of Photography, 1929), and Robert Taft’s Photography and the American Scene: A social history, 1839–1889 (1938).
    Lucia Moholy wrote photographic history as a history of technology and invention, referring to its commercialisation through studio photography. Moholy balanced the relationship between art and photography, dealt with art photography at the turn of the century and the establishment of amateur photography. Her overview, though condensed – the small paperback (dimensions approx. 18 x 11 cm) comprises only 182 pages with an additional picture section – did not lose sight of the trends in artistic photography of the 1920s, discussing surrealism, new objectivity and photomontage. Moholy concluded her history in the present with the photojournalism of the 1920s and 1930s. Moholy linked the history of photography to the present by formulating overarching reflections on the social and artistic significance of the visual medium.

    Lucia Moholy wrote a cultural history of photography with a focus on social and media history (see Hoimann 2016, 11). Photography, as Miriam Halwani writes, is presented as art and social practice, applying art historical as well as sociological parameters of investigation - epochs, styles, photographers, but also statistics, tables, audiences and the use of photography are presented in equal measure (Halwani 2012, 162). Moholy spans the range from the classics of photography such as Talbot and Daguerre to the photographers of the 20th century, i.e. her contemporaries: Cecil Beaton, László Moholy-Nagy, and her own practical work also found consideration in her book.
    The cover is illustrated with Honoré Daumier’s Nadar élevant la Photographie á la hauteur de l'Art, and a quote from the artist, “Je suis de mon temps”, introduces the book. Lucia Moholy was not alone in this reference to the 19th century caricaturist and graphic artist in the 1930s and 1940s. The émigré artist John Heartfield dedicated his essay to Daumier in the newsletter Freie Deutsche Kultur of the Free German League of Culture (Heartfield 1942). St. George's Gallery, owned by the Viennese art dealer Lea Bondi Jaray, exhibited Daumier's work in 1946. And art historian Ernst Gombrich, author of The Story of Art, published a review on Wilhelm Wartmann’s book on Daumier’s lithographs in the Burlington Magazine in 1947 (Gombrich 1947).

    Moholy’s Penguin book appealed to a wide readership and sold 40,000 copies as an inexpensive paperback at 6 pence within two years (Sachsse 1985, 61). Even though the paperback never aimed to be, nor ever could be, a weighty foundational work of photographic history, its negative reception within the profession was probably due to gender-based exclusion. A review by Beaumont Newhall, curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art (Newhall 1941) described it as superficial. Moholy was also effectively excluded from the historiography of photography when Helmut Gernsheim, who was to have a decisive impact on research into early photographic history, omitted to mention her book in his later publications. The photo historian Rolf Sachsse has described this “loss of memory” by Gernsheim: If she is still thanked in his first book New Photo Vision (1942), Moholy is only mentioned in the bibliography of the weighty survey work The History of Photography from the Earliest Use of the Camera Obscura in the Eleventh Century up to 1914 (1955); in the second edition of the 1969 book, Lucia Moholy’s A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939 is no longer listed (Sachsse 1985, 61; Szwast 2019, 15).
    Nevertheless, with A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939, a paperback addressed to a general readership, Lucia Moholy wrote herself into photographic history and was able (finally) to make herself visible as a photographer who was also versed in photo theory. Together with her husband, the Bauhaus master László Moholy-Nagy, Lucia Moholy also worked on writings on photography and film theory, which, however, appeared under his sole authorship (Valdivieso 2000). Lucia Moholy is now widely known for her object and architecture photographs taken between 1923 and 1928 at the Weimar and Dessau Bauhaus which have shaped perceptions of the art school to the present day (Schuldenfrei 2013). Lucia Moholy and László Moholy-Nagy separated in 1929, and the two went into exile in London by different routes after the National Socialists came to power. László Moholy-Nagy lived in London between 1935 and 1937, where he worked as a graphic designer, painter and photographer and published three photobooks, including The Street Markets of London (1936).

    Lucia Moholy lived in London from March 1934, where she established herself as a portrait photographer. The National Portrait Gallery in London owns a portfolio of 45 portrait photographs by Lucia Moholy-Nagy, including of the writer Margaret Goldsmith (1935), the physicist Patrick Blackett (1936) and the writer and socialite Margot Asquith, Countess of Oxford and Asquith (1935). The latter portrait was reproduced by Lucia Moholy in her book A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939 (page 96).
    These and other portrait photographs from her early London period illustrate that Lucia Moholy must have made a name for herself as a portraitist shortly after her arrival. Nevertheless, her exile remained marked by economic instability and, like many other emigrants, she had to rely on various professional footholds. Lucia Moholy lectured at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and taught at the London School of Painting and Graphic Art, where the photographer Elsbeth Juda, who had also emigrated, was one of her students (Mitchell/March 2020, 14).
    From 1940 onwards, Lucia Moholy worked as a microfilming specialist for the library of Cambridge University and on behalf of the British Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux (ASLIB). In 1942, her London home was destroyed in a bombing raid (Müller 2019, 65f.). After the end of the war, Lucia Moholy engaged in long-lasting struggles with Walter Gropius to retrieve her negative archive from the Bauhaus period (Schuldenfrei 2013). In 1946, she was appointed by UNESCO and travelled to the Near and Middle East. In 1956, Lucia Moholy settled in Switzerland.

    Word Count: 1106

  • Lucia Moholy. A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939. Penguin Books, 1939, cover (METROMOD Archive).
  • Lucia Moholy. A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939. Penguin Books, 1939, bastard title with Daumier’s quote “Je suis de mon temps” (METROMOD Archive).
    Lucia Moholy. A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939. Penguin Books, 1939, title page (METROMOD Archive).
    Lucia Moholy. A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939. Penguin Books, 1939, page with daguerreotypes (METROMOD Archive).
    Lucia Moholy. A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939. Penguin Books, 1939, page with a multiple flash photograph of the golfer Bobby Jones with a driver (METROMOD Archive).
  • Freund, Gisèle. La Photographie en France au dix-neuvième Siècle. La Maison des Amis des Livres, 1936.

    Gernsheim, Helmut. New Photo Vision. Fountain Press, 1942.

    Gernsheim, Helmut, and Alison Gernsheim. The History of Photography from the Earliest Use of the Camera Obscura in the Eleventh Century up to 1914. Oxford University Press, 1955.

    Gernsheim, Helmut, and Alison Gernsheim. The History of Photography from the Earliest Use of the Camera Obscura to the Beginning of the Modern Era. McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1969.

    Gombrich, Ernst H. “Daumier, Honoré; Wartmann, Wilhelm: 240 Lithographien (review).” The Burlington Magazine, no. 89, 1947, pp. 231–232.

    Halwani, Miriam [Miriam Szwast]. Geschichte der Fotogeschichte 1839–1939. Reimer Verlag, 2012.

    Halwani, Miriam. Lucia Moholy. Fotogeschichte schreiben (Sammlung Fotografie, Museum Ludwig, 2), exh. cat. Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 2019.

    Heartfield, John. “Daumier im ‘Reich’.” Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 2, 1942, pp. 7–8.

    Hoiman, Sibylle. “Einleitung.” Lucia Moholy. A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939. Hundert Jahre Fotografie 1839–1939 (Bauhäusler. Dokumente aus dem Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, vol. 4), Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, 2016, pp. 8–13.

    Maggi, Angelo. “A Hundred Years of Photography. A Critical Rereading of an Innovative Contribution.” Lucia Moholy (1894–1989) between Photography and Life (Fotografia, 3), edited by Nicoletta Ossanna Cavadini, exh. cat. m.a.x. museo, Chiasso, 2012, pp. 41–47.

    Mitchell, Carla, and John March. Another Eye. Women Refugee Photographers after 1933, exh. cat. Four Corners, London, 2020.

    Moholy, Lucia. A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939. Penguin Books, 1939.

    Müller, Ulrike. “Lucia Moholy.” Frauen am Bauhaus. Wegweisende Künstlerinnen der Moderne, edited by Patrick Rössler and Elizabeth Otto, translated by Birgit van der Avoort, Knesebeck, 2019, pp. 62–67.

    Newhall, Beaumont. Photography. A short critical history. MoMA, 1938.

    Newhall, Beaumont. “Lucia Moholy: A Hundred Years of Photography (review).” The Art Bulletin, vol. 23, no. 3, 1941, pp. 246–247.

    Sachsse, Rolf. Lucia Moholy. Edition Marzona, 1985.

    Sachsse, Rolf. Lucia Moholy. Bauhaus-Fotografin. Bauhaus-Archiv, 1995.

    Schuldenfrei, Robin. “Images in Exile: Lucia Moholy’s Bauhaus Negatives and the Construction of the Bauhaus Legacy.” History of Photography, vol. 37, no. 2, 2013, pp. 182–203.

    Schwarz, Heinrich. David Octavius Hill. Der Meister der Photographie. Insel Verlag, 1931.

    Stenger, Erich. Geschichte der Photographie (Abhandlungen und Berichte des Deutschen Museums, vol. 1, no. 6). VDI-Verlag, 1929.

    Taft, Robert. Photography and the American Scene: A social history, 1839–1889. Macmillan, 1938.

    Valdivieso, Mercedes. “Eine ‘symbiotische Arbeitsgemeinschaft’ und die Folgen – Lucia und László Moholy-Nagy.” Liebe Macht Kunst. Künstlerpaare im 20. Jahrhundert, edited by Renate Berger, Böhlau, 2000, pp. 6–85.

    Word Count: 360

  • Burcu Dogramaci
  • London
  • No
  • Burcu Dogramaci. "A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939 ." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 09-05-2021.
  • Edith Tudor-Hart

    The Viennese photographer Edith Tudor-Hart emigrated to England in 1933 and made a name with her photographs focusing on questions of class, social exclusion and the lives of marginalised people.

    Word Count: 29

    Otti Berger
    Textile DesignerWeaver

    The textile designer and weaver Otti Berger lived in exile in London in 1937/38, where she sought to open up a new field of activity.

    Word Count: 24

    Margaret Leischner
    Textile Designer

    The designer Margaret Leischner lived in England from 1938, worked for textile and furniture companies, taught at the Royal College of Art and was honoured as Royal Designer for Industry.

    Word Count: 29

    Focus on Architecture and Sculpture

    Focus on Architecture and Sculpture by émigré photographer Helmut Gernsheim brought together his work and experience as a photographer for the National Buildings Record (NBR).

    Word Count: 25

    St. George’s Gallery
    Art Gallery

    In 1943, the art dealer Lea Bondi Jaray, with support of Otto Brill, also exiled from Vienna, took over St. George’s Gallery in Mayfair, exhibiting contemporary British and continental art.

    Word Count: 30

    László Moholy-Nagy
    PhotographerGraphic DesignerPainterSculptor

    László Moholy-Nagy emigrated to London in 1935, where he worked in close contact with the local avantgarde and was commissioned for window display decoration, photo books, advertising and film work.

    Word Count: 30

    John Heartfield
    ArtistGraphic DesignerFotomonteur (mounter of photographs)

    After escaping from his first exile in Prague in December 1938, the political artist John Heartfield lived in London since 1950, working for Picture Post and the publisher Lindsay Drummond.

    Word Count: 28

    The Story of Art

    The Story of Art by the émigré art historian Ernst H. Gombrich was published in 1950 with Phaidon Press. The book is a comprehensive and accessible introduction to visual culture.

    Word Count: 29

    The Street Markets of London

    In 1936, émigré photographer László Moholy-Nagy realised The Street Markets of London together with the journalist Mary Benedetta, setting the book within the overarching theme of urban photography.

    Word Count: 28