Josef Albers

Dafato Team | Apr 25, 2024

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Josef Albers († March 25, 1976 in New Haven, Connecticut) was a German painter, art theorist and educator.

Origin and education

Josef Albers grew up in Bottrop as the son of the master painter Lorenz Albers and his wife Magdalena. After attending the preparatory school in Langenhorst from 1902 to 1905, he attended the teacher training seminar in Büren from 1905 to 1908 and taught as an elementary school teacher in Bottrop, Dülmen and Stadtlohn until 1913. In 1908 he saw works by Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse for the first time at the Folkwang Museum in Hagen. Inspired by Piet Mondrian, he painted his first abstract picture in 1913. After studying at the Königliche Kunstschule in Berlin from 1913 to 1915 and the Kunstgewerbeschule in Essen from 1916 to 1919, he studied at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Berlin and from 1919-1920 with Franz von Stuck at the Kunstakademie in Munich.


In 1920 Albers attended Johannes Itten's preliminary course at the Bauhaus Weimar, which taught the artistic fundamentals of craft design in the Bauhaus workshops. Apart from his photographs and objects of everyday use, he worked abstractly from then on and subsequently in the workshop for glass painting, which from 1924 belonged to the workshop for wall painting at the Bauhaus. There he made assemblages and became a master craftsman for glass. He taught from 1923 to 1928 under Walter Gropius after Itten's departure, first as a junior master and from 1925 as Bauhaus master alongside László Moholy-Nagy in the preliminary course, which he continued on his own from 1928 to 1933 under Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. In addition to the preliminary course, he took over the furniture workshop at the Bauhaus from Marcel Breuer when the latter left the Bauhaus with Walter Gropius in 1928. In his teaching, Albers always derived forms and functions from the properties of materials and their possibilities. In 1925, he moved with the Bauhaus to Dessau and married Annelise Fleischmann, who later became textile artist Anni Albers. In 1927, he created the ensemble of 18 stained glass windows in Leipzig's Grassi Museum, which was destroyed in 1943 and reconstructed in 2011. In 1930, when Ludwig Mies van der Rohe took over as director of the Bauhaus, Albers became his deputy. In 1932, he had his first comprehensive solo exhibition of his glass works from 1926 to 1932 at the Bauhaus Dessau, and after the teaching staff moved to Berlin, he additionally taught drawing and writing from October 1932 until the Bauhaus closed under the Nazis in April 1933. In the same year, Albers and his wife Anni Albers fled to the USA with the support of Philip Johnson.

In 1937, as part of the "Degenerate Art" campaign, the cover of the Bauhaus portfolio "Neue europäische Graphik. German Artists" from the Wroclaw Schlesisches Museum der Bildenden Künste, the Chemnitz Municipal Art Collection, the Schlossmuseum Weimar, the Dortmund Municipal Art and Trade Museum, and the Nassauisches Landesmuseum Wiesbaden was confiscated and destroyed.

Black Mountain College und Yale-Universität

On his recommendation they went to the art school Black Mountain College in North Carolina, founded in 1933 by the classical philologist John Andrew Rice, where Albers taught from November 28, 1933 to 1949 also in project studies together with the former assistant of Oskar Schlemmer, Alexander Schawinsky, Richard Buckminster Fuller, John Cage, Merce Cunningham as many other artists and 1948

In 1950 Albers moved to Yale University and headed the Art Department from 1950 to 1959. His students there included Eva Hesse, Richard Serra, Richard Anuszkiewicz and Julian Stanczak. He also held numerous guest lectureships (at Harvard, Hartford, Havana and Santiago de Chile). In 1954 and 1955 he taught as a visiting professor at the newly founded Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm, which followed the teaching methods of the Bauhaus Dessau and was directed by Max Bill.

Albers experimented with colors, shapes, lines, surfaces and their interactions on cognitive as well as subjective, visual perception: "Only appearances are not deceptive." Like Piet Mondrian, he had a great influence on the development of American painting. His work counts as concrete art, with his geometric-optical illusions alongside those of Victor Vasarely among the pioneers of Op Art, and with his famous Homage to the Square to Hard Edge. With this series, he documents his investigations into the interaction of color (interaction of color, 1971) of three to four square areas of color, spatulaed onto the picture support without being mixed, whose item numbers he noted on the back of the pictures in order to make clear that a viewer perceives colors for themselves and with each other completely differently depending on the environment.

Josef Albers was a participant in documenta 1 in 1955 and the 4th documenta in 1968 in Kassel. In 1958, the Federal President awarded him the First Class Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In particular, the Westfälischer Kunstverein under the direction of Peter Leo and Dieter Honisch championed and exhibited Albers' work. In 1968 he received the Grand Prize of the Third Bienal Americana Grabado, Santiago, Chile; the Grand Prize for Painting of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, and in April opened the traveling exhibition Albers at the Westphalian State Museum of Art and Culture, which traveled through Europe until January 1970. In 1968 Albers was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 1973 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1970 he became an honorary citizen of his hometown of Bottrop. In 1971, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, honored him as the first living artist with a retrospective exhibition, and Albers established the non-profit corporation The Josef & Anni Albers Foundation to awaken and promote vision through art. In 1976, the former Städtische Neusprachliche Mädchengymnasium in Bottrop was renamed the Josef Albers Gymnasium. In 1983 Anni Albers attended the opening of the Josef Albers Museum in Quadrat Bottrop and donated works from the estate of her husband Josef to the museum.

His most famous works are:


  1. Josef Albers
  2. Josef Albers
  3. ^ Upshaw, Reagan (November 29, 2018). "A portrait of Josef Albers, in all his originality". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved November 25, 2023. [Albers] would become arguably the most influential art teacher in 20th-century America.
  4. ^ Heller, Steven (January 22, 2015). "When Bauhaus Met Lounge Music". The Atlantic. Retrieved November 25, 2023. [Albers] had a profound influence on the theory and practice of art and design—through his influential book 'Interaction of Color', but also in his classes at Black Mountain College, where he was the head of the art department, and Yale University, where he oversaw the department of design through an overhaul in curriculum in favor of rigorous exercises and an emphasis on detail.
  5. ^ Crichton-Miller, Emma (November 11, 2016). "Celebrating Bauhaus artists Josef and Anni Albers". Financial Times. Retrieved November 25, 2023.
  6. ^ Albers, Josef (1917–1918). "Rosa Mystica Ora Pro Nobis (reconstruction 2011)". St. Michael's Church, Bottrop, Germany: Albers Foundation Facebook Page. Archived from the original on February 26, 2022.
  7. ^ de Melo, M. (2019) Mosaic as an Experimental System in Contemporary Fine Art Practice and Criticism. PhD Thesis: University for the Creative Arts; University of Brighton, p.111
  8. Mü Kunstwerk des Monats Wie Josef Albers Stadtlohn sah. Mü, 17. März 2011, abgerufen am 12. Mai 2018.
  9. Laclotte et Cuzin 2003.

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