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Josef Albers Edit Profile

artist , educator

Josef Albers was a German-born American artist and educator whose work.


Josef Albers was born in 1888 in Bottrop in the Ruhr District of West Germany.


He received his education at the Teachers' Training School in Langenhorst and then at the Teachers College in Büren. In 1920 Albers became a student at the Bauhaus in Weimar.


He began his career as a teacher in the primary grades in the public school of Bottrop. His interest in art began with a visit to Munich and its museums and galleries in 1908. By 1913 he had completed his first abstract painting, and soon after he mastered the art of printmaking, especially woodcuts and lithographs. He taught furniture design and calligraphy in addition to painting and drawing. Among his designs was the first laminated wood chair intended for mass production. He used commercial methods to produce glass paintings and collages, as well as stained glass windows for architectural use. In his glass paintings of the 19206 Albers explored variations in optics and perception-both concerns that would be of great importance in his art as well as his teaching. On the recommendation of the Museum of Modern Art, Josef and Anni Albers (also an artist, whom he married in 1925) were invited to teach at the newly-founded Black Mountain College in North Carolina. He became the first of the Bauhaus teachers to leave Germany, in the fall of 1933. Albers was a mature and accomplished artist when he arrived in America, and soon after he began an active lecture and seminar tour. Through these numerous public appearances and academic presentations, his ideas and methods reached a wide audience and ideas developed at the Bauhaus were brought to the United States. Albers left Black Mountains College in 1949 and became chairman of the Department of Art at Yale University in 1950. Here he began his well-known series of paintings and prints to which he gave the title Homage to the Square. Albers' format for these works-a structure of three or four squares superimposed over one another according to precise ratios-allowed him to explore the optical and perceptual qualities of color in a neutral, non-representational manner. The squares represent only squares, they do not refer to objects in the natural world. Within this apparently limited format he demonstrated the endless and changing effects and relationships when different colors are combined. Color was allowed to function as a medium in its own right, rather than as a means to describe or refer to natural objects. The individual and his perceptions became Albers' subject. He rejected scientific and theoretical interpretations of his work, insisting that his interest lay in the magical properties of color, or color as a means of aesthetic revelation. Until the mid-19606 Albers was known primarily as one of the leading teachers of art and design in the United States. Then in 1965 his work was included in the important and popular exhibition titled "The Responsive Eye, " presented by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. As a result of this exhibition the beauty of his paintings and prints was recognized and the historical importance of his experiments with perception was acknowledged. From then until his death in 1976 Albers' work was exhibited throughout the world, and he received numerous honorary degrees and awards. In 1963 Albers had published Interaction of Color, the major statement of his artistic philosophy. The book is dedicated to his students, and the chapters explain problems to the reader and offer a series of visual exercises in the same way that Albers would present his ideas in the classroom. Interaction of Color represents Albers' legacy as a teacher and as an artist, the summation of a long and distinguished career.


  • His work, both in Europe and in the United States, formed the basis of modern art education programs of the twentieth century.