Arts: the parallel paths of Anni and Josef Albers

Anni (1899-1994) and Josef (1888-1976) Albers are exhibited together at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. Alternate personal rooms and moments of comparison. Given that they have lived and worked with each other for half a century and that they embody, until legend, the development of a modern abstraction based on geometry and color, it would indeed be absurd not to show them together. However, until today there have been fewer exhibitions of the couple than of the two separately – and much more of him than of her. Most often, in catalogs and manuals, their history is illustrated by a canvas from the series Homage to the Square, which obsessed Josef from 1950 until his death and whose three nested square pattern is widely known, far more so than Anni’s weaving experiments.

No doubt the Parisian exhibition will not be enough to restore the balance. But, of great richness, it is designed in such a way that it should become increasingly difficult to pretend that Anni’s textile works do not deserve as much attention as Josef’s pictorial creation. Was she not more daring and free than he, less concerned with building a system and less inclined to take herself seriously?

Read the report from 2016: The spirit of the Albers, from the Bauhaus to the Senegalese bush

Before I get back to this question, the facts. On the one hand, Annelise Fleischmann was born in Berlin in 1899 into a Jewish family converted to Protestantism. The father is an entrepreneur. On the other hand, eleven years his senior, Josef Albers, born in 1888 in Bottrop, in the Ruhr area, is the son of a Catholic working-class family. The father is a painter and carpenter. In order to live, although he was attracted to painting and discovered it as an autodidact in museums, Josef became a teacher in 1908. Annelise, a young girl of the cultivated bourgeoisie, received private painting lessons and attended museums and galleries with her father . From 1916 to 1918, she followed a more professional education in Berlin.

In 1939, they discovered a passion for
ancient cultures of Mexico and spend their summers there

He was a student from 1913 to 1915 at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin, but they did not meet then. He found school and salary from 1916 to 1918, to finance a new study session, in Munich this time, in 1919. He looked at the French Fauves – especially Matisse – and the painters of the groups. Die Brücke and Der blaue Reiter – Kirchner, Nolde, Kandinsky, Klee, etc. His stained-glass windows and ink drawings earned him the beginnings of local notoriety. In 1920, he gave up being a teacher and joined in Weimar, shortly after its opening, a school which declared itself resolutely modern and called itself Das Bauhaus. His teachers were Itten and Gropius, who entrusted him with the glass workshop in 1922. He was 34 years old and, finally, a stable situation. His colleagues are Klee, recruited by Gropius in 1921, or Kandinsky, hired as “master” the following year, when he himself was promoted to “journeyman”.

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