Josef Albers - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 13, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Robert Elkon Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1966

  • Catalogue Essay

    Luminous and radiating, Study to Homage to the Square – Endless, 1964, perfectly encapsulates the exploration of color, rhythm and spatial movement at the heart of Josef Albers’s iconic Homage to the Square series. Rendered in shades from ochre to cadmium yellow, the work draws the viewer into a beautiful pictorial space that seems to emanate pure light, with the distinct color fields appearing to expand before the eye despite the geometrical regularity of the composition. Painted in 1964, just one year after Albers published his seminal treatise Interaction of Color, this work demonstrates the technical mastery of color and form that Albers had attained with his Homage to the Square series more than a decade after first commencing it.

    Albers painted his Homages to the Square works daily as a kind of meditative exercise, continuously pursuing his investigations into color theory and perception with subtly different means until the end of his life. Seeking to minimize evidence of the artist’s hand, Albers applied unmixed paint directly from the tube, applying it with a palette knife with short and precise strokes to the absorbent and rigid Masonite board. As with all of his Homage to the Squares, Albers carefully recorded the technical details of its execution, including each paint used, on the reverse of each Masonite panel. Along with Albers’s reductive and systematic application of color, this codification clearly reflects a conceptual understanding of painting that anticipates much of art making in the mid 1960s when painting was stripped of its transcendental aims.

    As art historian Heinz Liesbrock noted, despite the series’ overarching title of Homage to the Square, “…the square is not a goal in itself; rather, it above all gives a form to color and to the genuinely painterly organization of color” (Heinz Liesbrock, Josef Albers, Interaction, exh. cat., Villa Hügel, Essen, 2018, p. 59). For Albers, the purpose of the integration of color was to evoke different moods and visual effects through the contrasting combination of seemingly overlapping squares – often reflected in his titles, which he regarded as poetic language. Study to Homage to the Square – Endless beautifully exemplifies how, as Albers once stated, he "was for years in the yellow period” (Josef Albers, quoted in “Oral history interview with Josef Albers”, June 22 - July 5, 1968, Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Washington, D.C., online). Deeply influenced by Goethe’s 1810 Theory of Color, Josef viewed this hue as caring, curing and uplifting. Study to Homage to the Square – Endless echoes Goethe’s words, “a strong yellow…has a magnificent and noble effect…The eye is gladdened, the heart expands, the feelings are cheered, an immediate warmth seems to waft toward us.”

Property from the Miles and Shirley Fiterman Collection


Study to Homage to the Square - Endless

signed with the artist's monogram and dated "A 64" lower right
oil on Masonite
16 x 16 in. (40.6 x 40.6 cm.)
Painted in 1964, this painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the work of Josef Albers currently being prepared by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and is registered under no. JAAF 1964.1.113.

$120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for $287,500

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

20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 13 November 2019