Josef Albers papers, 1929-1970

A Finding Aid to the Josef Albers Papers, 1929-1970 , in the Archives of American Art, by Jean Fitzgerald

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Biographical Information

Josef Albers (1888-1976) of Dessau, Germany, Black Mountain, North Carolina, and New Haven, Connecticut, was a painter, printmaker, and art teacher advocating a disciplined approach to composition, form, and color.

Josef Albers was born on March 19, 1888 in Bottrop, Westphalia, Germany, the only child of Lorenz Albers, a housepainter, and Magdelena (Schumacher) Albers. He attended the Präparanden-Schule in Langenhorst from 1902 to 1905 and then the teachers college in Büren, graduating in 1908. He became an instructor in several Westphalian primary schools.

Albers studied at the Royal Art School in Berlin, the Arts and Crafts School (Folkwang School)in Essen, and at the Art Academy in Munich under Franz Stuck before enrolling at the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1920. In 1923, he became an instructor and in 1925, when the school was transplanted to Dessau, he became a Bauhausmeister, teaching his fundamental design course. He remained in that position in Dessau and Berlin until 1933, when under pressure from National Socialism, the school was shut down. In that year, Albers emigrated to the United States, becoming a professor of painting at Black Mountain College in North Carolina.

In 1949, Albers moved to Yale University where he taught in the Department of Design and served as Chairman of the Art Department. Following his retirement in 1960, Albers continued to live in New Haven with his wife, textile artist Anni Albers.

Albers served as a guest teacher in Ulm, Germany, and in many colleges and art schools in the United States, Mexico, and South America. He was also an author of poems and books concerning art theory.

Josef Albers died on March 25, 1976 in New Haven, Connecticut.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of painter, printmaker, and art teacher Josef Albers date from 1929 to 1970 and measure 1.5 linear feet. Found within the papers are biographical materials, writings, and photographs. The bulk of the collection consists of printed materials.

Biographical material consists of a curriculum vitae, bibliographic lists, a transcript of a "Yale Reports" radio interview in which Albers discusses art as a port of general education, and a photocopy of a letter from Eugene W. Leake of the Maryland Institute discussing a work by Albers in the Baltimore Museum.

Writings and Lectures are primarily photocopies of poems and typescripts by Albers concerning his theories on art, as well as an audio recording of Albers delivering a lecture at Yale University. There are also photocopied typescripts about Albers written by others including a typescript "Josef Albers" by Hans Jean Arp.

Printed material primarily consists of clippings and exhibition announcements and catalogs, some of which are annotated by Albers. There are also two exhibition catalogs for Anni Albers, press releases, a copy of poetry publication Origin 8, book Josef Albers: Poems and Drawings by Albers, book American Abstract Artists, 1936-1966, and miscellaneous brochures.

Photographs consist of two copies of the same image of Josef Albers pin registering one of his prints with Tamarind artisan Ken Tyler.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as 4 series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:

Subjects:

  • Albers, Anni
  • Baltimore Museum of Art

Subjects-Topical:

  • Art - Philosophy
  • Art - Study and teaching
  • Painters
  • Printmakers

Types of Materials:

  • Interviews
  • Photographs
  • Poems
  • Transcripts

Names:

  • Arp, Jean, 1887-1966
  • Leake, Eugene, 1911-

Provenance

The Josef Albers papers were donated by the artist in 1969 and 1970. A small collection of additional Albers papers and an audio recording of a lecture with an unknown provenance were integrated.

Separated and Related Materials

Also found in the Archives is an oral history interview with Albers conducted by Sevim Fesci in 1968, and a collection of letters from Albers to J. B. Naumann that was loaned to the Archives by the Brooklyn Museum for microfilming and is available on microfilm reel 911.

How the Collection was Processed

Portions of the collection were microfilmed as separate accretions on reels N69-139 - N69-140, N70-48, and 2786; these reels are no longer in circulation. All accretions and two small small collections with an unknown provenance were merged and processed by Jean Fitzgerald in 2010.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Josef Albers papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

How to Cite this Collection

Josef Albers, 1929-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1957-1970
(Box 1; 3 folders)

Biographical material consists of a curriculum vitae, bibliographic lists, a transcript of a radio interview, and a photocopy of a letter from Eugene W. Leake of the Maryland Institute.

Box Folder
1 1 Miscellaneous Biographical Material, 1966-1970
1 2 Interview Transcript, 1957
1 3 Letter from Eugene W. Leake, 1967

Series 2: Writings and Lecture, 1936-1967
(Box 1; 5 folders)

Writings consist of photocopies of writings by Josef Albers and about Albers by others. There is also an audio recording on 1 sound tape reel of Albers delivering a lecture at Yale University.

Box Folder
1 4 Writings by Josef Albers, 1936-1966, undated
1 5 Albers Delivering a Lecture at Yale University, circa 1957
(1 sound tape reel)
1 6 Photocopy of Typescript "Josef Albers" by Hans Jean Arp, undated
1 7 Typescript "Joseph Albers' Homage to the Square" by Various Authors, 1964
1 8 Typescript "Reflexions sur les Graphismes de Josef Albers" by Robert Le Ricolais, 1967

Series 3: Printed Mateial, 1929-1969
(Boxes 1-3; 1.3 linear feet)

Printed material consists of clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs for Josef Albers, exhibition catalogs for Anni Albers, press releases, publications and books by and about Albers, and miscellaneous brochures.

Box Folder
1 9-10 Clippings, undated
(2 folders; Oversized Material Housed in Box 3)
1 11 Clippings, 1934-1935
1 12 Clippings, 1940-1946
1 13 Clippings, 1956
1 14-15 Clippings, 1958
(2 folders)
1 16 Clippings, 1959
(Oversized Material Housed in Box 3)
1 17 Clippings, 1960
1 18 Clippings, 1962
1 19 Clippings, 1963
1 20 Clippings, 1964
1 21-22 Clippings, 1965
(2 folders; Oversized Material Housed in Box 3)
1 23 Clippings, 1966
1 24 Clippings, 1967
1 25-26 Clippings, 1968
(2 folders; Oversized Material Housed in Box 3)
1 27 Clippings, 1969
1 28 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1929-1953, undated
1 29 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1957
1 30 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1958-1959
1 31 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1960
1 32 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1961
1 33-34 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1962
(2 folders)
1 35-37 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1963
(3 folders)
1 38-41 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1964
(4 folders)
1 42-43 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1965
(2 folders)
1 44-45 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1966
(2 folders)
1 46-47 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1967
(2 folders)
1 48-51 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1968
(4 folders)
1 52 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1969
Box Folder
2 1 Exhibition Catalogs for Anni Albers, 1959-1962
2 2 Press Releases, 1964-1969
2 3 Poetry Publication Origin 8, 1968
2 4 Book Josef Albers: Poems and Drawings by Josef Albers, 1958
2 5 Book American Abstract Artists, 1936-1966 edited by the American Abstract Artists, 1966
2 6 Brochures for Art Work by Josef Albers, 1969, undated
2 7 Miscellaneous Brochures, 1959, undated
Box Folder
3 1 Two Oversized Clippings, undated,
from Box 1, Folder 10
3 1 An Oversized Clipping, 1959,
(from Box 1, Folder 16)
3 1 Three Oversized Clippings, 1965,
(from Box 1, Folder 21)
3 1 Two Oversized Clippings, 1968,
(from Box 1, Folder 25)
3 1 Two Oversized Clippings, 1968,
(from Box 1, Folder 26)
3 2 Book Josef Albers: Graphic Tectonic, 1968

Series 4: Photographs, circa 1968
(Box 2; 1 folder)

Photographs are of Josef Albers pin registering one of his prints with Tamarind artisan Ken Tyler.

Box Folder
2 8 Photographs of Albers and Ken Tyler, circa 1968