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Josef Albers (1888-1976)
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price plus buy… Read more For over two decades, the German modernist avant-garde painter Josef Albers dedicated himself to one series, Homage to the Square, his most well known and celebrated group of works. Four of the following five paintings by Josef Albers belong to that series. After nearly a quarter century of incessantly painting squares over and over again, the artist said, 'I'm not done yet, I have to try new variations.' Albers restricted himself to a single motif, repeated, enlarged and reduced, in order to investigate the properties of colour. The square, the simplest, clearest, and most precise shape known to man, offered Albers the perfect foundation to achieve what he called 'colour autonomy,' a state where colour, 'the most relative medium in art,' solely defines a work of art. Albers' Homages to the Square are as much Homages to Colour. During the early 1920s, as a student and later a professor at the Bauhaus, Albers demonstrated an early tendency towards logic and order when he experimented with precise squares of ready-cut glass that he painted using monochromatic colours and then methodologically aligned in wooden frames. In addition, Albers showed a passion for the act of seeing and the physcology of perception by defying the laws of perspective and colour theory in his works. Under pressure from the newly elected Nazi regime, the Bauhaus was closed in 1933 forcing Albers to immigrate to America where he took up a teaching post at North Carolina's prestigious Black Mountain College. In 1950, Albers would become Chairman of the Department of Design at Yale University, residing in New Haven, Connecticut until his death in 1976. A devoted and passionate teacher, Albers dedicated his internationally acclaimed book, Interaction of Colour, to his students whom he claims were also his teachers, enriching and stimulating his painting. Once in America, Albers focused primarily on painting not only because he no longer had a glass workshop at his disposal but more importantly because his scientific study of colour had been dropped from the Bauhaus curriculum in 1925. During numerous visits to Mexico with his wife, Albers also developed a fascination with Mexican architecture which he believed combined to perfection his theories on colour and structure. These theories would be explored in several series which he began in the 1930s. The first of the five canvases offered, Variant: Lime Green Wall, belongs to a series entitled Variants which precedes the Homage to the Square series. Influenced by Mexican adobe houses, each painting is divided into a grid of small squares which Albers systematically painted using roughly equal amounts of pure, unmixed colour. Whichever colour appears as dominant is therefore determined not by the amount of paint applied but by the way in which the interplay of colours is processed by the viewer's brain. Like an optical illusion, certain squares seem to pop out of the canvas while others recede into the distance. For the Homage to the Square series, Albers worked under laboratory-like conditions. He painted either three squares (such as lots 151 and 154) or four squares (such as lots 152 and 153) of solid planes of colour nested within one another. Under a calculated arrangement of fluorescent lights, all works were executed on the rough side of masonite panels primed with at least six coats of white liquitex. Unmixed paints were applied straight out of the tube with a palette knife starting with the centre square. Despite their mechanical and impersonal manner of execution, Albers' canvases retain a certain eternal quality producing an intense visual pleasure individual to each viewer. PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION
Josef Albers (1888-1976)

Lime-Green Wall

Details
Josef Albers (1888-1976)
Lime-Green Wall
signed with the artist's monogram and dated 'A58' (lower right); signed, titled and dated 'Lime-Green Wall Albers '58' and further annotated for colour (on the reverse)
oil on masonite
23½ x 34½in. (59.7 x 87.5cm.)
Painted in 1958
Provenance
Sydney Janis Gallery, New York. Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 26 June 1986, lot 685.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
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VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price plus buyer's premium.

Lot Essay

To be included in the forthcoming Josef Albers catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Anni and Josef Albers Foundation.

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