Accomplished as a designer, photographer, typographer, printmaker, and poet, Albers is best remembered for his work as an abstract painter, educator and theorist. He was born in Bottrop, Westphalia, Germany on March 25, 1888.
Albers earliest employment was that of a schoolteacher in his hometown. Further studies trained him in Art Education and Painting. At age 32, in 1920, Josef enrolled as a preliminary student at the Weimar Bauhaus and in two years he joined the faculty of there as a stained-glass maker. As the Bauhaus moved to Dessau in 1925, he was promoted to the position of Professor, adding furniture-making to his stained-glass curriculum, alongside artist-teacher peers Oskar Schlemmer, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee.
As the Bauhaus closed under pressure from the Nazi regime in 1933, Albers emigrated to the United States. Architect and MOMA Curator Philip Johnson arranged for him to be offered a job at a new art school, Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Josef took the position and taught at Black Mountain from 1933-1949, when he left to head the design department at Yale University.In 1963, he published Interaction of Color which presented his theory that colors were governed by an internal and deceptive logic.
“Albers’s most profound impact on the history and practice of modern art was his transformation of art education and pedagogy, which he believed was the key to developing a future audience for art. Central to this pedagogy was a non-dogmatic, un-hierarchical, “scientific” approach based on observation and experimentation. As a teacher his stated goal was to “open the eyes,” of students by disrupting ingrained habits of perception and considering forms apart from their conventional associations, reduced to their basic characteristics (line, shape, material, color). His strategies of “defamiliarization,” such as drawing with the non-dominant hand, mirror writing, exploring optical illusions, and representing “negative” spaces, sharpened visual observation, precision, and awareness and are now an accepted part of the academic training of visual artists.” -Josef Albers, American Painter, Poet, Sculptor, Teacher and Theoretician, The Art Story, http://www.theartstory.org/artist-albers-josef.htm
In his paintings, Albers combined geometric shapes with highly calculated color combinations, sometimes creating heightened optical effects.
‘His work represents a transition between traditional European art and the new American art. It incorporated European influences from the Constructivists and the Bauhaus movement, and its intensity and smallness of scale were typically European, but his influence fell heavily on American artists of the late 1950s and the 1960s. “Hard-edge” abstract painters drew on his use of patterns and intense colors,while Op artists and conceptual artists further explored his interest in perception.’ -Piper, David. The Illustrated History of Art, ISBN 0-7537-0179-0, p469.
A famous and important series of work for Albers was his Homage To The Square, consisting of over 1000 related works. Begun in 1949, he continued work on the series until his death in 1976.
Artists who studied with Albers include: Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Donald Judd, Ray Johnson, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Eva Hesse, and John Chamberlain.
- -Piper, David. The Illustrated History of Art, ISBN 0-7537-0179-0, p469.
- -Sebastian Smee, The Secrets of Color, The Atlantic, December 2014 http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/12/the-secrets-of-color/382229/
- -Josef Albers, American Painter, Poet, Sculptor, Teacher and Theoretician, The Art Story, http://www.theartstory.org/artist-albers-josef.htm
- -Josef Albers, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josef_Albers
- Josef Albers, Art DIrectory, http://www.albers-josef.com/
- Josef Albers, WikiArt, https://www.wikiart.org/en/josef-albers