Josef Albers
Year, Birthplace 1888, Germany
Year, Place of death 1976, United States
Nationality United States
Between 1913 and 1915, having worked as a primary school teacher, Josef Albers studied at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, in Berlin, to become an art teacher. In 1916, he learnt lithography at the Kunstgewerbeschulen in Essen and, in 1919-1920, he attended Franz von Stuck’s drawing classes and Max Doerner’s painting technique classes at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich. He finished his long apprenticeship with the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1920 as a pupil of Johannes Itten. During those years, he researched the art of glass and stained-glass windows, working in particular on the houses of Walter Gropius – then director of the Bauhaus – in Berlin and Weimar, for which he also designed furniture. A methodical individual, and a believer in the logical union of matter and the spirit, he rejected any subjectivism. His great teaching talent was evident and he ended up being recruited by the Bauhaus in 1922 as head of the studio devoted to painting on glass. With Itten's departure in 1923, he became a professor, leading the preparatory courses with László Moholy-Nagy. That same year, he designed the stained glass for the first Bauhaus exhibition. His first theoretical essay dates from that period. In 1925, he followed the Bauhaus to Dessau, where he assumed an important role in developing design, in particular devising furniture and glass objects. He took on the running of the furniture studio in 1928, after the departure of Marcel Breuer, and then became joint director. This period ended with a solo exhibition at the Bauhaus in Berlin in 1932, shortly before the Nazis turned their attention to the school, forcing it to close. In 1933, following the advice of Philip Johnson and Edward Warburg of MoMA in New York, Josef Albers decided to emigrate to the United States. He was invited to teach at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. He stayed there until 1949, also lecturing at several other universities and institutes. At Walter Gropius’s invitation, he joined Yale University in New Haven in 1950. During those years, he continued his work as a painter. His first abstract painting dates from 1935. The exhibitions became more frequent. In 1955, he participated in Documenta I in Kassel and the following year was the subject of a retrospective at the Yale University art gallery. He received numerous commissions to decorate buildings and was honoured with the greatest distinctions in the United States and Germany. In 1963, the result of eight years’ worth of seminars at Yale University was published. Entitled Interaction of Color (Yale University Press). The work was both an introductory manual to colour and a reflection on colour and Albers’ teaching, and assumed great importance at a time when abstract expressionism was at its height. In 1971, Josef Albers was to be the focus of a retrospective at the MoMA in New York. Simultaneously a teacher, painter, designer, theoretician and photographer, he occupies a fundamental place in the development of twentieth-century art, and is considered the precursor to both Op Art and minimalism. AC