(1888 – 1976), Germany

Josef Albers Biography

Josef Albers was a German-born American artist and educator who remains one of the most influential abstract painters of the 20th century. As a student and later a professor at the Bauhaus, Albers played a significant role in introducing the tenets of European Modernism to America.

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Teaching

Albers' three-decade teaching career began in 1922 when the Bauhaus hired him to work in the glass workshop. From 1923, he taught design in the institution's Preliminary course. By 1925, he was teaching alongside Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky as a professor, whilst he continued to work in glass as well as furniture design and typography.

Upon his emigration to America in 1933—forced by Nazi hostility to the Bauhaus for its modernist tendencies, which they considered to be 'un-German'—Albers was appointed as head of the art department at North Carolina's Black Mountain College and stayed there until 1949. Although the new liberal arts college was to close prematurely in 1957, it was instrumental in exposing the minds of many young American artists, such as Ray Johnson, Kenneth Noland and Robert Rauschenberg, to the principles of Modernism and abstraction. While Albers continued the teachings of the Bauhaus at Black Mountain College, his colour theories were also influenced by his contemporaries there, including the philosopher John Dewey. From 1950 until his retirement in 1958, Albers was the chair of the Department of Design at Yale University.

Josef Albers Artworks

Josef Albers' colour theories and paintings, which emphasise the role of colour over that of form, promote an approach to painting that is based on observation and experimentation.

Homage to the Square

As a painter, Albers is most remembered for his 'Homage to the Square' series, which he began in 1950 and worked on for the following 26 years. The paintings in this series are defined by a successive superimposition of squares upon one another, sometimes in varying shades of a single colour (Departing in Yellow, 1964) and sometimes in complementary colours (a painting in red and blue, titled Homage to the Square: Against Deep Blue, from 1955). Albers painted directly from the tube with a palette knife as a way of creating a 'pure' painting, free of brushstrokes.

Through their abstracted forms and solid colours, Albers' paintings contemplate human emotion and the light of different times of day and season. Albers was particularly interested in the nuanced chromatic or tonal juxtaposition of colours, once remarking that although midnight and noon cannot exist together in life, they can in a painting.

Writings and Public Works

A prolific writer and a multidisciplinary artist during his lifetime, Albers published poetry, articles and art theories and worked in painting, printmaking, murals and architecture.

He designed Two Portals (1961) at the Time and Life Building in New York, then Manhattan (1963) at the Pan Am Building in the same city. Both works reflect his exploration of the relationships between colours and adopt his signature rectangular motifs. Of his published writings, Interaction of Colour (1963) is arguably the most cited.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2022

Josef Albers
featured artworks

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Study for Homage to the Square with color study by Josef Albers contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Josef Albers Study for Homage to the Square with color study, 1962–1966 circa Oil on blotting paper
36.5 x 29.5 cm
MEYER*KAINER Request Price & Availability
Variant/Adobe by Josef Albers contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Josef Albers Variant/Adobe, 1947 Oil on blotting paper
46 x 61.3 cm
David Zwirner
Box Q by Josef Albers contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Josef Albers Box Q, 1958 Ink on paper
46 x 58 cm
Galerie Thomas Contact Gallery
Structural Constellation (JAAF 1976.3.1534) by Josef Albers contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Josef Albers Structural Constellation (JAAF 1976.3.1534), c. 1955–1958 Ink on paper
58.4 x 45.7 cm
Reserved
Waddington Custot
Study for Homage to the Square: “Persistent” (JAAF 1976.1.610) by Josef Albers contemporary artwork painting
Josef Albers Study for Homage to the Square: “Persistent” (JAAF 1976.1.610), 1960 Oil on masonite
61 x 61 cm
Sold
Waddington Custot
Tectonische Gruppe (Tectonic group) by Josef Albers contemporary artwork mixed media
Josef Albers Tectonische Gruppe (Tectonic group), 1925 Sand blasted orange opaque glass, white etching, black paint
29.6 x 45.6 cm
Hauser & Wirth Request Price & Availability
Study to homage to the square: apodictic by Josef Albers contemporary artwork painting
Josef Albers Study to homage to the square: apodictic, 1950–1954 Oil on masonite
40.4 x 40.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth Request Price & Availability
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Josef Albers
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Represented by this
Ocula Member Gallery

David Zwirner contemporary art gallery in New York: 19th Street, United States
David Zwirner Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris
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Josef Albers in
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