Josef Albers

1920–1923 Bauhaus student /
1923–1933 Bauhaus young master

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin / © unbekannt / © VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2017
Portrait of Josef Albers / Photo: Ernst Louis Beck

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In 1905, Josef Albers began his training as a primary school teacher and was employed as such from 1908 to 1913. From 1919 to 1920, he studied in Franz von Stuck’s painting class at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He continued his studies from 1920 to 1923 at the Bauhaus Weimar where he enrolled in the preliminary course taught by Johannes Itten and attended the glass painting workshop. In 1923, Walter Gropius appointed him to the teaching staff of the Bauhaus. Here, he represented the classical Bauhaus concept whereby every artistic activity was to be developed according to both the function of the piece and the properties of the material. He received a teaching commission for the preliminary course and also became an apprentice master of works in the glass painting workshop. In 1925, Walter Gropius appointed him as a junior master. In the same year, he married the Bauhaus student Anneliese (Anni) Fleischmann.

From 1925 to 1927-28, he directed the preliminary course at the Bauhaus Dessau together with László Moholy-Nagy. After the latter’s departure in 1928, Albers became the sole director of the preliminary course and also the head of the carpentry workshop until 1929. At the Bauhaus Berlin, Albers was head of the preliminary course and taught drawing and lettering classes from 1932 up to the school’s dissolution in 1933.

Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Fruit Bowl, design: Josef Albers, 1923.

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After the Bauhaus was closed down in 1933, Albers and his wife emigrated to the USA. At the recommendation of the Museum of Modern Art, he was appointed to a position at Black Mountain College in Ashville, North Carolina, where he taught art until 1949. His courses attracted young artists such as Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and Robert Rauschenberg to Ashville. From 1936, Albers held numerous guest professorships, including those at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, the Cincinnati Art Academy in Ohio, Yale University in New Haven, the architecture department of the Universidad Católica in Santiago de Chile and the Ulm School of Design.

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Stacking Tables, design: Josef Albers, 1926.

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Albers’s important works include the glass pictures that he created in 1928 during his Bauhaus period, designs for furniture and everyday utility objects made of wood and glass, as well as his Strukturale Konstellation (Structural Constellation) series that was realised between 1950 and 1958. His artwork, which culminated in the Homage to the Square series, has been distinguished with numerous awards. Among others, Albers received the Konrad von Soest Prize of the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe in 1958, the AIGA Medal of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, New York, in 1964 and the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1968. In 1973, he became a Fellow of the American Academy of Art and Sciences in Boston. Albers was awarded a total of 14 honorary doctorates in the United States, Canada and Europe.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Schenkung Josef Albers / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Lettering Set, author: Josef Albers, around 1928.
  1. Literature:
  2. Borchardt-Hume, Achim (2006): Albers and Moholy-Nagy. From Bauhaus to the New World, London.
  3. Danilowitz, Brenda & Frederick A. Horowitz (2006): Josef Albers. To Open Eyes, London.
  4. Kunstmuseum Bonn (1998): Josef Albers. Werke auf Papier, Cologne.
  5. Rüden, Egon von (1999): Zum Begriff künstlerischer Lehre bei Itten, Kandinsky, Albers und Klee, Berlin.
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