One of the leading progenitors of Geometric Abstraction, alongside the likes of Kasimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian, Josef Albers is considered one of the most important contributors to color theory. Born in 1888 in Germany, he both studied and taught at the famed Bauhaus school alongside other influential artist such as Vassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. When the Bauhaus closed in 1933 due to the rise of fascism in Germany, Albers emigrated to the US, where he would come to teach art at several leading schools, including Black Mountain College, Harvard and Yale. Some of his most notable students during this period were Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg and Eva Hesse.
Albers most recognizable and famous work is his “Homage to the Square” series, comprised of a succession of highly geometric and abstract paintings that make color as, if not more, important than the formal composition itself. Consisting of three or four squares meticulous placed within one another, their various colors place focus on the contrast between shades rather than the specific shape. He preferred the use of geometric shapes to emphasis their man-made quality, and this stylistic device further distanced the work from anything that might be considered naturalistic.
Despite “Homage to the Square” being his most well known and regarded body of work, Albers took up a number of other mediums, such as printmaking, mural painting, poetry, architectural commissions and critical writing. In fact, he is nearly as well known for his publications on color theory, such as Interaction of Color of 1963, as he is for his painting. Albers was highly productive until his death in New Haven, Connecticut in 1976. The artist’s work has continued to be a mainstay in both private and public collection globally, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the Tate Modern, London.