born March 19, 1888, Bottrop, Ger.
died March 25, 1976, New Haven, Conn., U.S.
Painter, poet, sculptor, teacher, and theoretician of art, important
as an innovator of such styles as Colour Field painting and Op art.
From 1908 to 1920 Albers studied paintingand printmaking in Berlin,
Essen, and Munich and taught elementary school in his native town of
Bottrop. In 1920 he enrolled at the newly formed Bauhaus, which was to
become the most important design school in Germany. His most important
creations of that period included compositions made of coloured glass,
as well as examples of furniture design, metalwork, and typography.
After 1925, when he became a “master” at the Bauhaus, Albers explored
a style of painting characterized by the reiteration of abstract
rectilinear patterns and the use of primary colours along with white
In 1933, when the Nazi government closed the Bauhaus, Albers left
Germany for the United States. On the recommendation of architect
Philip Johnson, Albers organized the fine-arts curriculum at Black
Mountain Collegein North Carolina, where he taught until 1949. The
next year he began a 10-year tenure as chairman of the art department
of Yale University. Over the course of his time at these two schools,
he counted among his students Eva Hesse, Robert Rauschenberg, and
After moving to the United States, Albers concentrated on several
series of works that systematically explored the effects of
perception. In his series of engravings on plastic Transformations of
a Scheme (1948–52) and in the series of drawings Structural
Constellations (1953–58), he created complex linear designs, each
subject to many possible spatial interpretations. His best-known
series of paintings, Homage to the Square (begun in 1950 and continued
until his death), restricts its repertory of forms to coloured squares
superimposed onto each other. The arrangement of these squares is
carefully calculated so that the colour of each square optically
alters the sizes, hues, and spatial relationships of the others. These
works were exhibited worldwide and formed the basis of the first solo
exhibition given to a living artist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York City, in 1971.