Josef Albers

Germany 1888–United States of America 1976

Josef Albers was born in Bottrop on 19 March 1888. After training and working as a primary school teacher, and attending art school in Berlin, he studied at the School of Applied Arts in Essen from 1916 to 1919, then spent a year in Munich before entering the Weimar Bauhaus. The Bauhaus Preliminary Course was taught at that time by Johannes Itten, whose theories of colour and perception greatly influenced Albers' development as an artist and teacher. After teaching experimental techniques of glass painting at the Weimar Bauhaus after 1922, Albers went on to become a full professor at the Dessau Bauhaus in 1925, directing the Preliminary Course and conducting workshops in such diverse subjects as furniture design, typography and drawing. When the Bauhaus was closed in 1933 due to Nazi repression, he accepted an invitation to teach at Black Mountain College, North Carolina, where he remained until 1949. Albers became an American citizen in 1939.

Among his earliest museum exhibitions in the United States were those held at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1940 and at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1942. In 1949 Albers started work on the Homage to the square series which was to preoccupy the artist for the remainder of his career. He moved to New Haven, Connecticut, in 1950, in order to take up the position of head of the Department of Design at Yale University; he was given a retrospective exhibition at the Yale University Art Gallery in 1956. During this time he exhibited regularly at the Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, and accepted a number of commissions for murals. In 1965 a touring exhibition, Homage to the Square, organised by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, visited major cities in South and North America. In 1970 he moved to Orange, Connecticut. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, organised a retrospective exhibition of his work in 1971. Albers died in New Haven on 25 March 1976.

See more works by this artist in the NGA collection

Josef Albers Homage to the square: On an early sky 1964 © The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. VG Bild-Kunst/Copyright Agency Purchased 1981 Learn more