Johannes Molzahn


Typography, photography, book jackets, exhibition design. Born 21 May 1892 in Duisburg; his father a bookbinder. Studied at the Weimar Kunstschule. 1909-14: study in Bern, Montreux, Zurich; studied with the painters Hermann Huber, and with Otto Meyer-Amden, who had a major influence upon Molzahn. From 1915: military service; in 1916 on the German/Danish border. From 1921: member of the Novembergruppe. From 1922: designed publicity for Fagus Werke. 1923-8: taught commercial art, industrial design, photography, printing at the Magdeburg Kunstgewerbeschule. 1927: designed book jackets and displays for the Werkbund Exhibition, Breslau. 1928-34: taught painting and graphics at the Breslau Kunstakademie (Akademie für Kunst und Kunstgewerbe); the Akademie was closed April 1932, then re-organised with Molzahn as acting director and head of the master studio. January 1934: dismissed by the Nazis. July 1937: seven works in ‘Entartete Kunst’ (Degenerate art) exhibition, Munich; 33 of his works removed from German museums. 1938: emigrated to USA with the help of Katherine Dreier (collector), Walter Gropius and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy; his wife Ilse remained in Berlin. 1938-41: taught art at University of Washington, Seattle. 1941-3: lived in New York City where he had a studio. 1943-7: taught at the School of Design, Chicago (the ‘new Bauhaus’). 1947-52: taught at the New School for Social Research, New York City; freelance artist/designer. 1959: returned to Germany; freelance in Munich. 1965: appointed member of the Akademie der Künste. Died 31 December 1965 in Munich. Two sons, by his first marriage, were killed in the war.

Writings by

    ‘Das Manifest des absoluten Expressionismus’, Der Sturm, v. 10, 1919.

Writings about

  • Ernst Scheyer, ‘Molzahn, Muche and the Weimar Bauhaus’, Art Journal, New York, Spring, 1969, pp. 269-77
  • F.H. Ehmcke, ‘Wahrzeichen – Warenzeichen’ (trademarks), Das Plakat, Feb. 1921, pp. 69-100
  • Erich Wiese, ‘Johannes Molzahn’, Der Cicerone, 1921, pp. 652-8
  • Jan Tschichold, ‘New life in print’, Commercial Art, 1930, IX, pp. 1-20 (‘The New Typography’ explained) J. Tschichold, ‘New paths in poster work’ (tr. E.O. Lorimer), Commercial Art, 1931, X, pp. 242-7 (poster)
  • Dr Hauschild, ‘Remarks on the technique of advertising an exhibition’, Buch- und Werbekunst, April 1934, pp. 100-107 plus 8 pp. supplement (JM in supplement)
  • Franz Roh, ‘Zum 60. Geburtstag von Johannes Molzahn’, Die Kunst und das schöne Heim, May 1952, pp. 286-8 (biog in English in prelims)
  • Erich Wiese, Ausstellung Johannes Molzahn (exh. cat.), Darmstadt: Hessisches Landesmuseum, 1956
  • Graphik, Dec. 1968, p. 9 (exh. poster of 1925)
  • Herbert Schade, Johannes Molzahn/Einführung in das Werk und die Kunsttheorie des Malers, Munich/Zurich: Schnell & Steiner, 1972 (includes brief wiritings by JM, chronological biography, bibliography, and writings about JM)
  • Siegfried Salzmann (ed.), Johannes Molzahn. Das druckgraphische Werk (exh. cat), Duisberg: Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, 1977
  • SB, 1991, esp. pp. 303-4
  • JA, 2000, esp. pp. 156-62
  • Christopher Wilk (ed.), Modernism, London: V&A, 2006 (h/b, p/b)
  • Benezit, 2006 (includes auction records 1971-2004).
  • Deutsche Biographische Enzyklopädie, Munich, London, New Providence: K.G. Saur 1995- (from 1997: Munich only)., 1998
  • Friedrich Friedl, Nicolaus Ott, Bernard Stein, Typography – when/who/how, Cologne: Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 1998., 1998
  • H.K. Frenzel, ‘Das Plakat für die deutschen Kampfspiele in Breslau 1930’, Gebrauchsgraphik (International Advertising Art), Berlin: Phönix Illustrationsdruck und Verlag GmbH (later: ‘Gebrauchsgraphik’ Druck und Verlag GmbH), 1933-71. Published from Munich from 1950., May 1930, pp. 58-9
  • International Biographical Dictionary of Central European Emigrés 1933-45, Munich, New York, London, Paris: K.G. Saur, 1983., 1983 (includes bibliography and list of exhibitions)


  • Weimar, 1913/14, 1922
  • Sturm Gallery, Berlin, several from 1917
  • Jena, Cologne, Dresden, 1919-20
  • Magdeburg, 1925
  • Brooklyn Museum, 1926 (group)
  • Duisburg and Essen, 1931
  • Berlin, 1936
  • Janis, New York, 1944 (group)
  • Landesmuseum, Darmstadt (then Kunstmuseum, Duisberg, and Folkwang Museum, Essen), 1956
  • Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, 1964, 1977
  • Goethe House, New York, 1970.


  • Staatsbibliothek der Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin.