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Homage to the Square, 1965
||March 19, 1888(1888-03-19)
Bottrop, Westphalia Germany
||March 25, 1976 (aged 88)
||Abstract Painting, Study of Color
Josef Albers (March 19, 1888 – March 25, 1976) was a German-born American
artist and educator whose work, both in Europe and in the United States,
formed the basis of some of the most influential and far-reaching art
education programs of the 20th century.
Albers was born in Bottrop, Westphalia (Germany). He studied art in Berlin,
Essen, and Munich, before enrolling as a student at the prestigious Weimar
Bauhaus in 1920. He began teaching in the preliminary course of the Department
of Design in 1922, and was promoted to Professor in 1925, the year the Bauhaus
moved to Dessau.
With the closure of the Bauhaus under Nazi pressure in 1933, Albers emigrated
to the United States and joined the faculty of Black Mountain College, North
Carolina, where he ran the painting program until 1949. At Black Mountain his
students included Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Ray Johnson and Susan Weil.
Weil remarked that as a teacher, Albers was "his own academy" and said that
Albers claimed that "when you’re in school, you’re not an artist, you’re a
student", though he was very supportive of expressing one's self and his or
her own style when one became an artist and began his or her journey. In
1950 Albers left Black Mountain to head the Department of Design at Yale
University in New Haven, Connecticut, until he retired from teaching in 1958.
In 1962, as a fellow at Yale, he received a grant from the Graham Foundation
for an exhibit and lecture on his work. At Yale, Richard Anuszkiewicz and Eva
Hesse were notable students. Albers also collaborated with Yale professor and
architect King-lui Wu in creating decorative designs for some of Wu's
projects. Among these were distinctive geometric fireplaces for the Rouse
(1954) and DuPont (1959) houses, the façade of Manuscript Society, one of
Yale's secret senior groups (1962), and a design for the Mt. Bethel Baptist
Church (1973). In 1963 he published Interaction of Color which presented his
theory that colors were governed by an internal and deceptive logic. Also
during this time, he created the abstract album covers of band leader Enoch
Light's Command LP records. Albers continued to paint and write, staying in
New Haven with his wife, textile artist Anni Albers, until his death in 1976.
Josef Albers, Proto-Form (B), oil on fiberboard, 1938, Hirshhorn
Museum and Sculpture Garden
Accomplished as a designer, photographer, typographer, printmaker and poet,
Albers is best remembered for his work as an abstract painter and theorist. He
favored a very disciplined approach to composition. Most famous of all are the
hundreds of paintings and prints that make up the series Homage to the
Square. In this rigorous series, begun in 1949, Albers explored chromatic
interactions with flat colored squares arranged concentrically on the canvas.
In 1971 (nearly five years before his death), Albers founded the Josef and
Anni Albers Foundation, a
not-for-profit organization he hoped would further "the revelation and
evocation of vision through art." Today, this organization not only serves as
the office Estate of both Josef Albers and his wife Anni Albers, but also
supports exhibitions and publications focused on Albers works. The official
Foundation building is located in Bethany, Connecticut and "includes a central
research and archival storage center to accommodate the Foundation's art
collections, library and archives, and offices, as well as residence studios
for visiting artists." The
U.S. copyright representative for the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation is the
Artists Rights Society.
Albers' work represents a transition between traditional European art and
the new American art.
His work incorporated European influences from the constructivists and the
Bauhaus movement, and its intensity and smallness of scale were typically
However, his influence fell heavily on American artists of the late 1950s and
"Hard-edge" abstract painters drew on his use of patterns and intense colors,
while Op artists and conceptual artists further explored his interest in