Oral history interview with Josef Albers, 1968 June 22-July 5
Albers, Josef, 1888-1976
Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig
Place of publication, production, or execution:
Transcript: 24 pages
Originally recorded on 1 sound tape reel. Reformated in 2010 as 4 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hrs., 11 min.
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Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.
An interview of Josef Albers conducted 1968 June 22-July 5, by Sevim Fesci, for the Archives of American Art.
This interview was conducted in New Haven, Connecticut. Albers speaks of his childhood in the industrial area of Westphalia, Germany; his father's influence as a house painter and set designer; his young interest in technical toys; his educational history, beginning at the Royal Art School, an art teacher prep school; his education in art history in conjunction with fine arts; his brief experience teaching in public schools; his time studying at the Applied Art School in Essen while living and teaching in Berlin; and the beginning of professional career after having passed his exam in Berlin in 1915.
He discusses the influence of the European movements/artists, Die Brucke; Schmidt-Rottluff, Heckel, and Kirchner; his move to Munich and time spent working with Stuck (the teacher of Kandinsky and Klee); his eventual shift to the Bauhaus working in collage and stained glass under Itten; his refusal to do the traditional apprenticeship at the Bauhaus and surprising success with stained glass while striking out on his own; his initial experiments while working in the new studio for stained glass at the Bauhaus with frosting (a.k.a. thermometer style); his move from collage to montage; his disbelief in the use of past art as a source for current art; his distaste for the concept of art as self-expression; his use of repetitive forms in his painting as a method of "solving the problem;" his belief that the spectator makes the vision of the artist more lively; his belief that he teaches philosophy (how to see) not technique (how to paint); the fine line between influencing students and creating disciples; color as the most relative medium in art and a study of ourselves; his use of squares (the most man-made form), beginning in 1949; the role of art in society to reveal visually the attitude of our mentality; and his belief as to the future of art as being a further consideration of order.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Josef Albers, 1968 June 22-July 5. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Josef Albers (1888-1976) was a painter and educator in New Haven, Connecticut.
This interview is part of the Archives' Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and others.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001