Study for Homage to the square

Josef Albers

Study for Homage to the square

C. 1966
Oil on paper
12 1/8 x 13 1/8 inches (30,6 x 33,4 cm)

In 1950 Albers begins to explore the visual perception of colours and their interaction in different combinations in his famous serial and research series “Homage to the Square”. With this phenomenon and the square, which remaines his fundamental pictorial element throughout his career, he also deals theoretically with the book "Interaction of Colour" (1963). Albers teaches how to truly see color. His central thesis is that there are no absolutes in colour. The way humans perceive colour is influenced by the surrounding context of neighboring colours, lighting conditions, size and quantity.
By 1976 he produces hundreds of variations of the basic compositional scheme of three or four squares placed in one another. The spatial image structure of the series, for which Albers defines four variants and five formats, results from the vertically centered, horizontally downward-trending arrangement of different coloured squares of different sizes. The exact pigments – as in our example – are noted by Albers on the front edge. The rhythmic staggering of the squares gives the picture a spatial effect: if you stare at the initially clearly separated yellow tones and the squares for longer, the view widens and reveals an extraordinary complexity of perception between surface and spatial depth. In 1965, Albers writes about the series: “They all have different shades of colour and therefore different climatic zones, so to speak. The choice of colours and their arrangement aim at an interaction that influences and changes each other. Thus, character and feeling change from picture to picture without additional ‘handwriting’ or so-called texture. Although the underlying symmetrical and quasi- concentric ordering of the squares remains the same in all paintings – in proportion and placement – the same squares group or separate, connecting and separating in many different ways.”

Über Josef Albers

Born: 1888 in Bottrop
Died: 1976 in New Haven