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Homage to the Square--Insert

1959 Josef Albers Born: Bottrop, Germany 1888 Died: New Haven, Connecticut 1976 oil on masonite 48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. 1969.47.51 Not currently on view

Exhibition Label

A mathematical formula seems an odd starting point for an artist, but this is the way Josef Albers began more than one thousand panels he called Homage to the Square. Restricting himself to a format that was never smaller than one foot nor larger than four feet on a side, Albers concentrated on color and the unpredictability of the way the eye sees, and the mind interprets, images. As a result, the central yellow square seems either to recede or project forward, depending on the viewing distance.

Modern Masters: Midcentury Abstraction from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2008

Gallery Label

In 1933 Albers left Nazi Germany for the United States, where he taught generations of American painters, as he said, to "make open the eyes." While American artists in the postwar period were attacking their canvases with big gestures and gobs of paint, Albers insisted that "thinking and planning" were still important, and that "without order and control we will chaos and decay."

The artist worked on his Homage to the Square series for twenty-five years, applying pigments straight from the tube in strict rectangles. Albers wanted the viewer to concentrate on the relationships between the colors and the sense of depth and movement they created. Here, the innermost brilliant yellow square radiates out of a neutral space, where pale outlying bands faintly echo the pulses of the core color.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006


Abstract - geometric


paint - acrylic


About Josef Albers

Born: Bottrop, Germany 1888 Died: New Haven, Connecticut 1976

More works in the collection by
Josef Albers