A Bauhaus Connection

Bertoia and the Albers

Josef and Anni Albers on the balcony of the Prellerhaus, Bauhaus Dessau, ca. 1928.
Photograph by Marianne Brandt

Bertoia maintained a frequent line of communication with Josef and Anni Albers. Both were students of the Bauhaus, which had a strong early influence on Bertoia’s non-objective works, and Anni joined the Knoll family in the 1950s, transforming Josef’s paintings (along with those of Paul Klee, another favorite of Bertoia’s) into masterful textiles. Josef at one point, wished for Bertoia to conduct a sculpture seminar at Yale, where he was head of the design department. The use of geometry and pattern, an interest shared by the Albers’, can be seen in the monotypes as early as the 1940s.

Josef Albers 1888–1976

From a young age, Josef Albers possessed an innate interest in glass and color. His father was a painter, and as a child, Albers loved to watch his father create. Albers commenced his formal training in art under the Dutch glass artist Jan Thorn-Prikker, who was a former follower of Henry Van der Velde. Beginning his studies at the Bauhaus in 1920, Albers quickly became involved in new experimentations in glass and painting. While he was a student, Albers began dating Anni Fleischmann, a talented student in textiles at the Bauhaus and in 1925 the two married. That same year, Josef became the Bauhaus master, the first student to hold the position.

The Albers moved to the United States in 1933, leaving Germany due to the rise of the Nazi Party. The architect, Philip Johnson recommended Josef Albers for a position at the newly formed Black Mountain College. Albers headed the progressive school’s art program and while director he taught many of the most celebrated American artists of the twentieth century, including Ruth Asawa, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Serra, Robert Motherwell, Kenneth Noland, and others. In 1949, Albers left Black Mountain College to serve as the Chairman of the Design department at Yale. It was there that he executed his most famous series of paintings entitled Homage to a Square.

Throughout the 1960s, Albers received several commissions to craft murals for new architectural projects; notably, in 1963, he completed a monumental abstract mural for the Pan Am building in New York. In 1971, five years before his death, Albers was the first living artist to be honored with a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Auction Results Josef Albers