JOSEF ALBERS (1888-1976)
JOSEF ALBERS (1888-1976)
JOSEF ALBERS (1888-1976)
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more A CENTURY OF ART: THE GERALD FINEBERG COLLECTION
JOSEF ALBERS (1888-1976)

Study for Homage to the Square

Details
JOSEF ALBERS (1888-1976)
Study for Homage to the Square
signed with the artist's monogram and dated 'A72' (lower right); titled and dated 'Study for Homage to the Square: 72' (on the reverse)
oil on masonite
24 x 24in. (61 x 61cm.)
Painted in 1972
Provenance
Estate of Josef Albers.
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Connecticut.
André Emmerich Gallery, New York.
Private Collection, Los Angeles.
Private Collection, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Further details
This work will be included in the Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings by Josef Albers currently being prepared by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation under number 1976.1.642.

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Painted at the pinnacle of Josef Albers’ career, the present work is a magnificent example of his Homages to the Square. Comprising three nested squares of red—one of his most significant colours—it takes its place within a practice that transformed our understanding of the chromatic spectrum. The work dates from 1972: the year after Albers became the first living artist to be granted a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. By this stage in his career he had been making his Homages to the Square for over two decades, each example a miniature laboratory for his study of the behaviour of colour. His all-red paintings stand among the most beloved, iconic and sought-after in the cycle, capturing Albers' precise gradation of different hues. There are twenty-eight red examples with the same dimensions as the present work, twelve of which are held in museums including the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Josef Albers Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Yale University Art Gallery.

Albers started his career at the Bauhaus in the 1920s, where his early ideas about colour were influenced by his contact with figures such as Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. Following his emigration to America during the 1930s, he taught at the radical Black Mountain College in North Carolina, surrounding himself with a network of emerging artists that included Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell. It was not until his move to Yale University in 1950, where he became Head of the newly-created Department of Design, that Albers began to immerse himself seriously in painting. Relishing the space and freedom of his new home in New Haven, he began the series that would come to define his career. The Homages, created according to one of four designs, used simple geometric structures to foreground the complexities of chromatic relationships. Using a palette knife to apply oil paint to the rough side of Masonite, Albers explored different combinations of hues, or ‘climates’. Colour, he believed, was wholly dependent on context: direct juxtaposition, through the unwavering rigours of the square, allowed him to observe this volatility at close range.

Teaching was an integral part of Albers’ practice: Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg were among his students. The lessons he taught throughout the years culminated in his landmark publication Interaction of Colour in 1963. Over the course of his career, Albers frequently invoked red as an example, using it to demonstrate that language was insufficient to describe the mercurial nature of colour. ‘If one says “Red” … and there are 50 people listening,’ he explained, ‘it can be expected that there will be 50 reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different’ (J. Albers, quoted in P. Sloane, The Visual Nature of Colour, New York 1989, p. 1). By the time of the present work, Albers’ study of red had reached microscopic levels of detail. Here, his shades are only a hair’s breadth away from one another, yet—tuned like strings upon a violin—each seems worlds apart. Created just four years before his death, it is a blazing symbol of a life lived in colour, and an elegy to its ever-changing glow.

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