ALBERS JOSEF

BOTTROP, GERMANY  [1888-1976]

Josef Albers was a German-born American artist and educator whose work, both in Europe and in the United States, formed the basis of some of the most influential and far-reaching art education programs of the twentieth century.

He was known to meticulously list the specific manufacturer's colours and varnishes he used on the back of his works, as if the colours were catalogued components of an optical experiment. His work represents a transition between traditional European art and the new American art. It incorporated European influences from the Constructivists and the Bauhaus movement, and its intensity and smallness of scale were typically European, but his influence fell heavily on American artists of the late 1950s and the 1960s. "Hard-edge" abstract painters drew on his use of patterns and intense colors, while Op artists and conceptual artists further explored his interest in perception.

In an article about the artist, published in 1950, Elaine de Kooning concluded that however impersonal his paintings might at first appear, not one of them “could have been painted by any one but Josef Albers himself.” Although their relationship was often tense, and sometimes, even combative, Robert Rauschenberg later identified Albers as his most important teacher.