German-born Josef Albers may be best known as a painter and contemporary artist, but this versatile individual has also made his mark on the worlds of poetry, sculpture, teaching and art theory. Most closely associated with the Bauhaus and Geometric Abstraction movements, Josef Albers has made his mark on the art world in a very big way.
Josef Albers was born on March 19, 1888 in Bottrop, Germany, and he died on March 25, 1976 in New Haven, Connecticut. Throughout his long life and historic career, Josef Albers was able to create a number of notable works of art, including remarkable paintings, magnificent sculptures and unforgettable works of poetry.
Josef Albers was famous for saying that art is about the how and not the what, meaning that true art is more concerned with performance and influence than with literal content. This attitude is well represented in Josef Albers' works, and in his lasting influence on the art world he loved so well.
In addition to his success as an artist, sculptor and poet, Josef Albers also found satisfaction as a teacher. Notably, Josef Albers saw himself as a teacher of philosophy instead of art, often saying that he was more concerned with making people see than teaching them how to paint.
The connection between artistic sensibilities and philosophical thought is clear in all the works of Josef Albers, from his paintings and sculptures to his books of poetry. Indeed, Josef Albers helped to bring together the worlds of art, sculpture and poetry. In much the same way, he played a key role in bringing together the disparate ideas of European Modernism and the American sensibility. Often associated with the Bauhaus movement, Josef Albers was able to bring those concepts to America, changing the world of American art in the process.
Josef Albers has earned a powerful legacy as a painter, sculptor and poet, but he has also left his mark on the art world through his teaching. Through his time in the classroom, Josef Albers has been able to influence an entire generation of new artists, exposing them not only to painting techniques and modern sculpture but theoretical work as well.
This theory held that color matters more than form, and that color is the primary language of the art world. That idea may seem obvious to modern art lovers, but it was quite a revolutionary concept at the time.
Josef Albers' ideas about color and its influence on art were laid out in his aptly-titled book "Interaction of Color". Published in 1963, this influential book was the most exhaustive analysis of the perception of color and its influence on form and function. The book was an immediate sensation in the art world, and it went on to influence an entire new generation of conceptual artists, teachers and theoreticians.
The book was a particularly strong influence on the Color Field and Minimalist movements, with which Josef Albers is closely associated. Even after the book had come and gone, the influence of color was clear in the works of Josef Albers. The Homage to the Square series is the perfect example of his dedication to color as a form of artistic expression.
Started in 1949 and continuing until his death, Homage to the Square is perhaps the best known of Josef Albers' works. Consisting of a single geometric shape, this lengthy work sought to systematically explore the myriad visual effects that could be created through nothing more than combinations of color and spatial relationships.
Throughout his years in the world of teaching and theory, Josef Albers instructed and influenced a whole new generation of artists, teaching at institutions as diverse as Yale and the Black Mountain College. These teaching stints further helped to establish Josef Albers' influential spot in the art world, and his influence continues to this day.
From his earliest works to his most contemporary pieces, Josef Albers has always been interested in exploration, most notably the variability of human perception. Josef Albers showed great interest in the variation of color, and in how that color influences perception and reaction to the artwork.
Even many years after his death, German-born Josef Albers continues to exert a powerful influence on the worlds of painting, sculpture, theory and poetry. Josef Albers may be gone, but his legacy lives on in the modern artists he has inspired to greater leaps of color and artistic expression.
Study for Homage to the Square, 1973
oil on masonite
16 x 16 inches
Homage to the Square: Ardend, 1952
oil on masonite
32 x 32 inches
Homage to the Square: White Nimbus, 1964
oil on masonite
48 x 48 inches
Homage to the Square: Midsummer, 1964
oil on masonite
40 x 40 inches