Josef Albers

Born March 19, in Bottrop, a small industrial city in the Ruhr district, Germany. The oldestson of Lorenz Albers (a labourer) and Magdalena Schumacher Albers.

Attends the Präparandenschule (Preparatory Teachers’ Training School) in Langenhorst

Attends the Lehrerseminar (Teachers' Training College) in Buren where he receives his teacher's certificate

Visits museums in Munich and the Folkwang Museum in Hagen where he sees paintings by Cézanne and Matisse for the first time

Teaches elementary school for the Westphalian regional educational system

Attends the Königliche Kunstschule, Berlin where he studies art education and receives his certificate to teach. Frequents Berlin’s state museums and galleries

Attends the Kunstgewerbeschule, Essen, while teaching in Bottrop’s public schools. Studies with Jan Thorn-Prikker, a stained glass artisan and drawing instructor. Begins making work in stained glass, as well as lithographs and blockprints, a selection of which are exhibited at the Goltz Gallery, Munich, in 1918

Attends the Royal Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, in Munich where he studies drawing with Franz Stuck and painting technique with Max Doerner. He makes figurative drawings as well as a series of brush and ink drawings of the rural Bavarian town of Mittenwald.


Attends the Bauhaus in Weimar, enrolling in the preliminary course while pursuing his own work with glass assemblage.

Promoted to the position of ‘journeyman’, he reorganises the Bauhaus glass workshop. Designs and executes stained-glass windows, and develops single-pane glass compositions. Around this time, he designs windows and furniture for Walter Gropius, the founding director of the Bauhaus

Invited by Gropius to conduct the preliminary course in material and design at the Bauhaus. Publishes his first essay in a special Bauhaus issue of the Hamburg periodical, Junge Menschen

Moves with the Bauhaus to Dessau and is appointed Bauhaus master. Marries Anneliese Fleischmann, a student of weaving at the Bauhaus. Travels in Italy.  Develops his sandblasted flashed-glass paintings with increasingly refined geometric compositions. He will continue making these – in what becomes known as his “thermometer style – for the next four years.

Designs glass and metal containers and begins his work in typography. Designs furniture primarily in wood and glass, for the Berlin apartment of Drs Fritz and Anno Moellenhoff.

Remains at the Bauhaus after Gropius leaves, taking charge of the preliminary course. Lectures at the International Congress for Art Education, Prague

After Marcel Breuer leaves, Albers heads the Bauhaus furniture workshop as well as the wallpaper design programme

Shows twenty glass paintings in an exhibition of Bauhaus masters (Kandinsky, Klee, etc.) in Zurich and Basel. Designs an armchair for mass production which can be taken apart and packed flat

Continues teaching under the new director of the Bauhaus, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and becomes the assistant director

Moves with the Bauhaus to Berlin. Had first solo show at Bauhaus: an exhibition of his work in glass from 1920-32.  Continues to teach basic design as well as courses in freehand drawing and lettering. Begins the Treble Clef series of gouache and glass constructions – his first major use of a single form  repeated with very slight

Compositional variations in many different colour schemes.


Closing down of the Bauhaus by the faculty members after the Gestapo padlocked its doors in June. 

In November 1933, at the suggestion of Philip Johnson and others, Josef and Anni Albers move to the United States to take charge of art education at the newly-founded Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Albers is based here for the next 16 years.

Gives a lecture series at the Lyceum Havana, Cuba. Executes woodcuts and linoleum cuts in Asheville, North Carolina.

Makes first of many visits to Central and Latin America and paints first free-form abstractions.

Gives lectures and seminars at Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

Exhibits widely in American galleries showing glass paintings from Bauhaus period and new oils

Included in the first American Abstract Artists exhibition at Squibb Galleries, New York.

Becomes a United States citizen

Takes a sabbatical year, painting in New Mexico and teaching Basic Design and Colour at Harvard for the spring semester and summer session.

Plays an increaslingly active role in administration at Black Mountain, writing on educational theory and lecturing on behalf of the school.

Spends sabbatical year painting in Mexico. He begins Variant series, his largest group of paintings to date, in which similar geometric compositions are executed in various colour schemes. These paintings demonstrate many of the points about colour effects and mutability with which Albers is becoming increasingly preoccupied.

Leaves Black Mountain College. Appointed Visiting Professor at Cincinnati Art Academy and at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York, where he teaches colour courses and the Faculty Workshop. Begins Structural Constellations, a series of linear, geometric drawings with deliberately ambiguous imagery offering multiple readings. Over the next 25 years Albers will execute the Constellations .


Begins Homage to the Square series that was to occupy him for the next 25 years. He will make these as oil paintings on hardboard, lithographs, screenprints, Aubusson and other tapestries and large interior walls made in various media.

Appointed Head of Department of Design, at Yale University

Give Lectures in Summer, in Department of Architecture, Universidad Catňlica, Santiago, Chile and at the Institute of Technology, Lima, Peru.  

Appointed Visiting Professor at Hochschule für Gestaltung, Ulm, West Germany (winter)

His first retrospective exhibition is held at Yale University Art Gallery. Named Professor of Art Emeritus, Yale.

Appointed Visiting Professor, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh. He receives  Officer’s cross, Order of Merit, First Class, of the German Federal Republic.

Retires as Chairman of Yale University Art School but retains his post as Visiting Professor until 1960. Awarded Konrad von Soest Prize, Landesverband Westfalen-Lippe, West Germany

Late years

Awarded Ford Foundation fellowship

Teaches at University of Oregon. Awarded Graham Foundation fellowship (Chicago)

Gives lecture series at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut (later published as Search versus Re-search). Featured in The Responsive Eye, an important travelling exhibition organised by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, as a result of which he comes to be regarded as “the father of Op Art”.

Appointed Visiting Professor, University of South Florida, Tampa

Receives Carnegie Institute award for painting at Pittsburgh International Exhibition

Receives Grand Prix, Third Bienal Americana de Grabado, Santiago, Chile, and Grand Prix for painting, State of Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, He receives Commander’s Cross, Order of Merit of the Germain Federal Republic. Elected member, National Institute of Arts and Letters, New York.

Moves from New Haven to Orange, Connecticut. Made honorary citizen of his native town Bottrop, Germany

Thirteen paintings and fifty-eight prints by Albers given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, on the occasion of his solo exhibition there - the first such show given to a major living artist

Dies March 25 in Orange, Connecticut

This information is based on the chronology published in the Guggenheim retrospective catalogue 1988