Josef Albers, American (b. Germany), 1888 - 1976
Medium: Oil on Masonite board
Painting: 24 x 24 in. (61 x 61 cm)
Frame: 24 1/2 x 24 1/2 in. (62.2 x 62.2 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Art Today
Object Number: 60.38
Copyright: © The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY
Josef Albers is recognized as an artist and an educator. Born into a family of artisans and carpenters, he was exposed to a tradition of careful and precise workmanship that influenced his later endeavors. After studying and then lecturing at the Bauhaus in Germany, Albers immigrated to the United States in the early 1930s, as did many German artists fleeing the Nazis. Once in the States, Albers taught at Black Mountain College in North Carolina before moving to Yale University, where he became chairman of the Fine Art Department. Focusing on color theory, his teachings introduced not only basic design, but also principles of color and perception. Through his own work, Albers investigated and illustrated formal relationships based on color combinations, variations in saturation, and optical illusions. He published his ideas in The Interaction of Color, an influential book that outlines the visual, perceptual, and psychological characteristics of color.
In 1950 Albers began painting the Homage to the Square series, on which he worked until his death in 1976. The Homage cycle used the square as its basic element because the form provided a simple, repeatable geometric shape that then freed him to focus on color relationships. Albers’ process was just as simple as his compositional vocabulary. Using a limited amount of paint, he created impeccably uniform surfaces. For example, in Study for Homage to the Square: Young Voice, a large painted square serves as the background upon which three more squares of diminishing sizes and varying shades are placed. These contrasts combine to suggest spatial depth and visual vibration within the painting.