Four concentric squares colored blue, light grey, charcoal grey, and black
Catalog #: 
Subject Matter: 

Medium: Silkscreen
Size: 10 1/4 x 10 1/4 in. (image)
Location: Inside N491 LC
Donor: Donated by E.F. Lindquist; conservation and exhibition generously supported by Professor Emeritus H. Dee and Myrene Hoover.

About the Artwork

Josef Albers was the first living artist to have a one-person show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1971. One year after the show, he published the portfolio set titled Formulation: Articulation in an edition of 1000 printed at Sirocco Screenprints, New Haven, and published by Ives-Sillman in collaboration with Harry N. Abrams, New York. This print was in folio II, folder 8. The portfolio is not organized chronologically. Instead, the order is meant to evoke new relationships and interactions between the colors in the prints. In an artist statement included with the portfolio, Albers wrote:

Although the underlying symmetrical and quasi-concentric order of squares remains the same in all paintings - in proportion and placement - these same squares group or single themselves, connect and separate, in many different ways. In consequence, they move forth and back, in and out, and grow up and down and near and far, enlarged and diminished. All this, to proclaim color autonomy as a means of a plastic organization.

This print of Homage to the Square exemplifies all of the qualities that Albers mentioned. The black, grey, and blue squares seem to telescope inward and outward. The blue appears at once as the background and foreground. The lines, though static, pulse where hues meet, and the eye tries to arrange them in different groupings to cohere. Albers achieves all of this with only color.


Danilowitz, Brenda. The Prints of Josef Albers: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1915-1976. Revised. Manchester and New York: Hudson Hills Press in association with the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 2010.

Houston, Joe. Optic Nerve: Perceptual Art of the 1960s. Exh. Cat. New York: Merrell & Columbus Museum of Art, 2007.

Rosenthal, T. G. Josef Albers Formulation: Articulation. London: Thames & Hudson, 2006.

Non-Objective, Color, Geometric Shapes, Bauhaus, Op Art, Alexander Bortnyik, Anni Albers

More about Josef Albers


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.