Josef Albers, ‘Study for Homage to the Square’, Richard Green Gallery

The Director of the Anni and Josef Albers Foundation has informed us that red paintings, representing love and passion, from the artist’s Homage to the Square series, were so cherished by Albers and his wife that they would not sell them during their lifetime. The Foundation maintains the same principal today.

From his early days as a student at the Bauhaus in Germany, Josef Albers was fascinated by the interaction of colour. After immigrating to America with his wife Anni in 1933 he became an art teacher at the ground-breaking Black Mountain College in North Carolina and in 1950 became Head of the Department of Design at Yale University where he taught Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Motherwell, while continuing to pursue his exhaustive exploration of colour theory.

Albers began his most famous series ‘Homage to the Square’ in 1950 and devoted the next twenty-six years to producing more than a thousand works of art including paintings, drawings, prints and tapestries. The series provided an in depth investigation of the chromatic relationship between concentric squares of colour, examining the optical effects produced by adjacent hues. With its rigid, geometric structure, the square provided an ideal format for Albers’ experiments, on to which he applied paint straight from the tube with a palette knife in one smooth layer. The resultant interaction of flat planes of varied colour created the illusion of their advancing or receding in space.

In 1972 Albers oversaw the publication of a review of work entitled Formulation: Articulation. In the introduction, the author and curator Gerald Nordland wrote ‘The purpose of his colour studies was to prove that colour is the most relative medium in art, and that we almost never perceive what colour is physically. He called the mutual influencing of colours interaction.

He taught us that our optical reception can be turned inside out, so that we see opaque colours as transparent, and perceive opacity as translucence. Albers compelled his students to learn to see again, and to be questioning of their vision. He pointed out that colour offers uncertainties and "perceptual ambiguities" where three colours can be made to look like four or like two, by changing their colour environments’ (Josef Albers, Formulation: Articulation, New York, 1972).

Frame size: 24 ¼ x 24 ¼ in / 61.6 x 61.6 cm

Signature: Signed with monogram & dated lower right: A 67; signed, dated and inscribed ‘Study for/Homage to the Square:/Ground: 6 coats of Liquitex Gesso (Permt Pigment)/Painting: paints used - from center:/Cadm. Red (Winsor + Newton)/Cadmium Red light (Pretested) / Cadmium Scarlet (Winsor + Newton)/ all in one primary coat /” directly from the tube/Varnish:’ on the reverse

New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Paintings by Albers, October - November 1984, no. 49

This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the work of Josef Albers currently being prepared by the Anni and Josef Albers Foundation and is registered as no: JAAF 1976.1.522

The Estate of Josef Albers, Bethany, CT
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany, CT
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
Private collection, New York
Lillian Heidenberg Fine Art, New York
Waddington Galleries, London
Private collection, acquired from the above

About Josef Albers

Josef Albers is best known for his seminal “Homage to the Square” series of the 1950s and '60s, which focused on the simplification of form and the interplay of shape and color. “Abstraction is real, probably more real than nature,” he once said. “I prefer to see with closed eyes.” His abstract canvases employed rigid geometric compositions in order to emphasize the optical effects set off by his chosen color palettes. Albers was highly influential as a teacher, first at the Bauhaus in Germany alongside Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, and later with posts at Black Mountain College, Yale, and Harvard; he taught courses in design and color theory, and counted among his students such iconic artists as Eva Hesse, Cy Twombly, Richard Anuszkiewicz, and Robert Rauschenberg. He is often cited among the progenitors of Minimalist, Conceptual, and Op art.

German-American, 1888-1976, Bottrop, Germany, based in Dessau, Germany, Black Mountain, North Carolina and New Haven, Connecticut

Solo Shows

Yale University Art Gallery, 
New Haven, CT, United States,
Small-Great Objects: Anni and Josef Albers in the Americas
Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, NY, United States,
One and One is Four: The Bauhaus Photocollages of Josef Albers
View Artist's CV