Josef Albers - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session New York Tuesday, November 14, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Ernst Beyeler Basel (acquired from the artist in April 1972)
    Galerie Melki, Paris (acquired in 1973)
    Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1973)
    Sotheby's, New York, November 9, 1982, lot 21B
    Private Collection
    Hollis Taggart Galleries, New York (acquired in 2016)
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Northampton, Smith College Museum of Art, An Exhibition of the Works of Josef Albers, February 5 - 23, 1964

  • Catalogue Essay

    Josef Albers’ Study for Homage to the Square: Decided from 1957 is rendered in pure yellows with a central square of light slate gray. The colors vibrate and shimmer within the reductive stability of the picture’s basic geometry. The seeming logic of the painting belies the subtle visual tension where the differing hues meet and touch. The format of this series dates back to 1950, just after Albers left his recent teaching position at Black Mountain College. Having previously taught at the Bauhaus, his art was informed by a European design philosophy that favored simplistic, yet rigid and formal, artistic structures. From 1950 onward, Albers dedicated his artistic career to exploring the limitlessness combinations of color and form until his death in 1976.

    The format of the square composition came to define his most iconic series of paintings. Albers explained that this seemingly repetitive template allowed for his experiments with diverse color combinations and the subtle, shifting tonalities to be found within a single color. Simultaneously this unchanged format ensures that the geometric shapes would remain the stable variant. “Color,” as Albers states, “is the means of my idiom...I’m not paying ‘homage to the square.’ It’s only the dish I serve my craziness about color in.” (Josef Albers, “Albers on Albers,” Art News, 1966, p. 48) The paint is applied with a palette knife, which can be seen in the careful, small applications of pigment that strangely imply a sense of depth into a seemingly flat, depthless field of clearly outlined shapes. Albers would describe his painting technique in often mundane terms; he likened it to how he spreads butter on his toast in the morning — he starts in the middle and moves out, the palette knife replacing his small butter knife. The practicality of his process was predicated on skills learned from his father, a builder and house painter. When painting a door, his father told him, start in the middle and paint outward. “That way you catch the drips, and don’t get your cuffs dirty.” There is a personal association to Albers’ Homage paintings, which make them visually poignant, but not at the expense of excluding the viewer’s own relation to these shapes and colors. “There is any personal experience that enters here; it is your own personal experience – your color associations, not the artist’s.” (Nicholas Fox Weber, Josef Albers, Milan 1988, p. 10) There is both an optical and emotional sense of immediacy to this painting and others like it. The purity of its forms and the limpid arrangement of its restrictive colors yield greater, not lesser, complexity of feeling and response in the mind and soul of the spectator.

  • Artist Biography

    Josef Albers

    German-American • 1888 - 1976

    Josef Albers was a German-American artist and educator, best known for his series Homage to the Square. His rigid, geometric works focus on the interplay of color and shape, and Albers is considered one of the fathers of both Minimalism and Conceptual Art. 

    Albers was born in Bottrop, Germany, and relocated to Munich in 1919 to study at the city’s Academy of Fine Arts. Albers began his career as an educator at the famous Bauhaus in 1922, first as a stained glass instructor and then as a full professor in 1925. Working at the Bauhaus brought Albers into contact with many other famous artists of the period, including Kandinsky and Klee. When the Nazis forced the Bauhaus’ closure in 1933, Albers left Germany and settled permanently in the United States. 

    For ten years, Albers (and his wife, fellow artist Anni Albers) taught at Black Mountain College, a progressive school in North Carolina. Between his time there and later at Yale University, Albers taught a number of artists who would later become quite famous, including Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Eva Hesse, Ruth Asawa and Richard Anuszkiewicz.

    View More Works

117

Study for Homage to the Square: Decided

signed with the artist's monogram and dated "57" lower right; further signed, titled and dated "Study for Homage to the Square: "Decided" Albers 1957" on the reverse
oil on masonite
24 x 24 in. (61 x 61 cm.)
Painted in 1957, this work will be included in the forthcoming Josef Albers Catalogue Raisonné being prepared by The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and is registered under number JAAF 1957.1.21.

Estimate
$450,000 - 650,000 

Sold for $555,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session

New York Auction 15 November 2017