Kandinsky with Josef Albers

Kandinsky with Josef Albers


JOSEF ALBERS (1888-1976), an artist and art theorist, one of the leaders of geometric abstraction, was born into a family of craftsmen in Germany. In 1908-1913 and 1916-1919, he worked as a teacher in primary schools of the Ruhr, including those in his hometown. In 1913-1916, he studied at the Royal School of Arts in Berlin, and since 1919 - in von Stuck’s painting class in Munich. In 1920, he enrolled as a student at the Weimar Bauhaus.

His early woodcuts and lithographs do not stand out above the average level of Expressionism. Influenced by the Bauhaus Constructivism (where one of his main mentors was L. Moholy-Nagy), Albers moved to a much more rigorous abstract geometric style, carried away by the so-called diaphaneia - transparent compositions on glass made by sandblasting. After moving along with the Bauhaus to Dessau (1925), he succeeded Marcel Breuer as the head of the carpentry shop, and in 1930 he became the Deputy Director of the Bauhaus. Albers actively worked as a designer creating sketches of furniture, as well as glass and metal utensils.

After the Nazis closed Bauhaus (1933), the architect Johnson arranged for Albers to be offered a job in the United States, where the master continued his fruitful teaching until 1949 (among his students were Kooning, Motherwell, Noland and Rauschenberg). In 1950, he headed the Yale University School of Art, where he lectured until 1960.

Over the years, his easel series were becoming more concise representing the color variations within one and the same geometric grid. In his most famous series ("Homage to the Square", 1950), the main modules are squares "nested" one inside the other and composing various chromatic "fugues". In 1963, the master published his major theoretical work ("Interaction of Color"), which outlined his ideals of a sterile pure form as a necessary fundamental principle of creativity. He had a great influence on the development of Op Art and Post-painterly Abstraction.

return to photogallery