© The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

Study to Homage to the Square: Full Evening, 1956

Josef Albers (1888–1976, D)

Medium: Oil on masonite
Dimensions: 45.8 x 45.8 cm

about the work

Four concentrically arranged rectangles in various colours – Josef Albers’ tributes to the square are available in many different executions. For Albers the square represents the simplest shape and was therefore deliberately chosen for his representations of relationships between colours. The way the differently coloured areas are arranged is how the artist shows different sized zones of the respective squares and thus allows particular relationships between each of the colours to occur. The narrow colour areas stand closer together and thus look more intensive than the wider areas, which have a greater distance between them. Even though the title of the series Homage to the Square emphasises the square as such, Albers is more concerned about the particular attributes of the colours and how they relate to each other, which stand out thanks to his concerted arrangements.

Even before emigrating to America, Josef Albers had helped shape the Germany of the Weimar Republic as an artist and art teacher. From 1913, he attended art schools and academies in Berlin, Essen and Munich, before commencing studies at the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1920. He was appointed the “Jungmeister” (Young Master) here by Walter Gropius in 1923, where Albers developed an advanced art education programme as head of the preparatory course. When the Bauhaus in Berlin closed in 1933, Albers emigrated to the United States, where he continued to spend his time in lively and influential teaching jobs. One of his posts was at Black Mountain College, where he taught for over 10 years – his students included Robert Rauschenberg and Kenneth Noland – and another at Yale University as well as many other prestigious universities. Major solo exhibitions show how respected he was in his lifetime; a retrospective of his work was shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1971.

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