Lot 169
  • 169

Josef Albers

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
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  • Josef Albers
  • Study for Homage to the Square: Early Growth
  • signed with the artist's monogram and dated 67; signed, titled, dated 1967 and variously inscribed on the reverse
  • oil on masonite
  • 81.3 by 81.3cm.; 32 by 32in.


Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired directly from the artist in 1972)
Quinta Galeria, Bogotá
Private Collection, Panama
Sale: Sotheby's, London, Contemporary Art, 16 February 2011, Lot 108
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Albers, 1973, no. 56
Cologne, Galerie Gmurzynska, Josef Albers, 1973, no. 20
Paris, Galerie Melki, Josef Albers, 1973, no. 20
Munich, Villa Stuck; Bottrop, Josef Albers Museum Quadrat, Anni und Josef Albers: Eine Retrospektive, 1989-1990, no. 102
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Dream of the Absolute, 1994
Sapporo, Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art; Nagasaki, Huis Ten Bosh Museum of Modern Art; Kyoto, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art; Tokyo, Mitsukoshi Museum of Modern Art, The Exhibition from Swiss Private Collection, 1996, p. 137, no. 60
New York, Gana Art Gallery, From Impressionism to Abstract Expressionism, 1996


Colour: The colours is the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate although the green square is much brighter and tends more towards a vibrant lime colour in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Very close inspection reveals evidence of extremely light handling to the white pigment on the upper right corner. Examination under ultra-violet light reveals two small patches of retouching: one to the centre of the lower part of the green square, the other to the top left corner in the pale grey pigment.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Instantly recognisable as Josef Albers’ profound dissection of painting into form and colour, Study for Homage to the Square: Early Growth represents a striking example of the artist’s most iconic body of work. His ongoing interest in the study of the square, undoubtedly influenced by his long and distinguished career as a teacher (starting as a professor at the Bauhaus in the 1920s), is perfectly embodied in this celebrated series of paintings, in which the endless visual possibilities of the relationships between the square and its colour are explored.

Study for Homage to the Square is the result of decades of creative and academic research that first materialised in 1950 at the age of sixty-two and continually developed by the artist until his death twenty-six years later. The thoroughly methodological approach that Albers rigorously applied throughout this series, was characterised by a self-imposed set of rules in which only four designs were used, each with similar compositional restraints. The three or four squares of which each study is made up, have a carefully balanced downward evolution – adding weight and a sense of movement to the composition. This optical effect is not only the result of the conscientiously balanced size and position of the squares, but also of the relationship between the different colours. As the artist explains; “although all the colors are only in contact at their edges and never overlap or intersect others, so that, physically, they are only presented frontally, side by side on the same plane, in action we see the colors as being in front or behind one another, over or under one another, as covering one or more colors entirely or in part. They give the illusion of being transparent or translucent and tend to move up or down” (Josef Albers quoted in: Eugen Gomringer, Josef Albers, New York, 1967, p. 138).

As one of the most influential teachers of the Post-War generation, Josef Albers iconic paintings are amongst the most important post-war abstract works to have ever been created. Despite the apparently repetitive nature of the artist’s methodological approach, each work is characterised by the uniqueness of colour relationships - even if occasionally only the brand of the paint differs between two works. Standing as a true testament to the artist’s intense exploration of colour relationships, Study for Homage to the Square: Early Growth thus offers a crucial insight into Josef Albers’ influential explorations.