1888-1976
Nationality: 
German-American
Biography: 

Josef Albers impacted the artworld as much through his teaching as his artwork. He began his career as a teacher in 1908 in Bottrop, Germany. He taught there until 1913 when he left to study art in Berlin. In 1920, he enrolled at the Bauhaus, famous for its emphasis on the connection between art and design. Three years later, Walter Gropius, the founder of the school, hired him as a teacher. Albers taught a stained glass workshop, a furniture workshop, and the preliminary course titled Vokurs (Foundations). Even at this early stage in his career, Albers experimented with the effects of color in his stained glass pieces.

In 1933, Albers emigrated to the US after the Nazis closed the Bauhaus. He and his wife Anni taught at Black Mountain College in Asheville, NC, where his students included Robert Rauschenberg. Then, in 1950, he left to chair the Department of Design at Yale. It was the same year that he began his Homage to the Square series. He used a thoroughly primed Masonite board, pure color from the tube, and a palette knife to produce the paintings, and he set up his studio with a mixture of warm- and cool-toned fluorescent lights to analyze how the colors played off of each other. Through the series, Albers explored how different colors react when placed near each other: do they recede? come forward? appear translucent? His experiments with color in Homage to the Square revealed that he could suggest movement solely through the use of color. Albers published his theories about the color in Interaction of Color in 1963. His discoveries were the foundation of the Op Art movement in the 1960s. Indeed, one of the founders of the movement, Victor Vasarely, studied with a former student of Albers, Alexander (Sándor) Bortnyik.

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