Josef Albers - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Sunday, June 26, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galleria de Foscherari, Bologna
    Private Collection, Italy
    Christie's, New York, Post-War and Contemporary Morning Session, 11 November 2015, lot 309
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Literature

    This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné being prepared by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Homage to the Square, titles Josef Albers most significant body of work produced over the final 26 years of his life. Having enrolled at the Bauhaus School of Art in the early 1920’s, Albers found himself exposed to a curriculum which sort to explore the technical components of artist production. Inside this construct, teaching emphasis was placed on form, texture and the colour within the creative process. Staying on to lecture at the art school, Albers’ formal training was to be the foundations for his extensive lifetime studies in colour theory.

    In 1933, under Nazi pressure the Bauhaus school closed and Albers emigrated to the United States where he settled in north Carolina and taught at Black mountain college. His pupils of this time included amongst others, Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg and his teaching was to be considered some of the most influential and progressive of its day. In 1950, at the age of 62, Albers embarked on his most celebrated series, titling each work the same: Homage to the Square. Each of the abstractions, combining either three or four uniquely coloured squares geometric placed within another, uses a basic composition to emphasise the complexity of colour perception. The regimented square framework, stripped of artistic licence, focuses the eye solely on the fundamental interplay between colours. This scientific practice is reiterated by the factual notes left on the reverse of each work, stating the exact colours used. For the viewer, the exploration of colour, combined with regulated forms, creates an intriguing illusion of space and depth to the painting surface. The present lot, which depicts three golden yellow squares, each darker than the outmost, offers the effect of three-dimensionality in such a way that the viewer could be looking down on a truncated pyramid.

  • 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.

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Study for Homage to the Square: Osmosis

oil on masonite
60.9 x 60.9 cm (23 7/8 x 23 7/8 in.)
Initialled and dated 'A59' lower right. Further signed, titled and dated 'Josef Albers "Study for Homage to the Square: Osmosis" 1959' on the reverse.

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £197,000

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 27 June 2016