Lot 140
  • 140

Josef Albers

50,000 - 70,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Josef Albers
  • Adobe: Purple, 2 Red Browns, Ochre
  • signed with the artist’s monogram and dated 58; signed, titled and dated 1958 on the reverse
  • oil on masonite
  • 55.5 by 66cm.; 21 7/8 by 26in.


Donated by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany


Dusseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Josef Albers, 1970


Condition: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly richer and the brighter red tones are more muted in the original. Condition: This work is in very good and original condition. Close inspection reveals evidence of light wear and handling scattered in isolated places in the margins, not affecting the main image. Extremely close inspection reveals four tiny and unobtrusive artist's pinholes to the extreme horizontal edges towards the corners, with an associated small loss around the pinhole in the upper right corner. Further close inspection reveals a few irregularities in the application of the varnish. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultraviolet light.
"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

“The Albers Foundation is having this painting sold entirely for the benefit of Studio Wayne McGregor because we feel that the company exemplifies qualities dear to both Josef and Anni Albers: courage, technical skill, originality, a phenomenal sense of artistic beauty, and the ability to celebrate human existence in new and unprecedented ways"


Wayne McGregor is one of the world’s foremost dance-makers. He has been choreographing for 22 years, over which time his company’s work has been seen by nearly 10 million live, online and TV audiences across 50 countries. McGregor has also been commissioned by, and his work performed by, the highest calibre ballet companies in the world including Paris Opera Ballet, New York City Ballet, La Scala, Bolshoi and the Mariinsky. He has choreographed films, music videos and fashion shows including for Warner Brothers, New York Fashion Week and Radiohead. He is Resident Choreographer at The Royal Ballet and Professor of Choreography at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. In 2011 he was awarded a CBE for services to dance.

In 2016 McGregor will open a world-class arts space in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Studio Wayne McGregor. The first arts organisation in the Park, it will be a home for Wayne McGregor, his company and collaborators, and a new resource for the arts and the communities of east London. Studio Wayne McGregor will support the full breadth of Wayne McGregor’s pioneering creative work, and support him in nurturing talent, releasing imagination and fuelling creativity within the arts and beyond. Studio Wayne McGregor will be a new model of practice committed to the intimate collaboration of art, technology, communities, enterprise and society. 

Adobe: Purple, 2 Red Browns, Ochre, 1958, forms part of one of Josef Albers most seminal series within his artistic oeuvre. The Adobe series, begun in 1947, demonstrates the convergence of Albers' exploration of colour theory and his background in design with influences from Mexican culture, all of which have come to be distinguishing aspects of Albers artistic practice.

In 1935, Albers took the first of many trips to Mexico and was greatly inspired by the colours, pre-Columbian architecture and sculpture that he saw there. These trips to Mexico had a profound effect upon his work, as he wrote to Nina and Wassily Kandinsky in 1936, “Mexico is truly the promised land of abstract art.” (Nicholas Fox Weber and Jessica Boissel, Josef Albers and Wassily Kandinsky: Friends in Exile: A Decade of Correspondence, 1929-1940, Manchester and New York 2010, pp. 87, 89, 91). Mexico confirmed Albers’ faith in the expressive power of colour and it was here that he returned to painting, significantly expanding his range of colour. Albers also drew inspiration from many of Mexico’s houses that were built from sun-dried bricks made of adobe clay, originally used by the native American Pueblo Indians, to produce the Adobe series.

Albers used the basic structure of the brick to build an underlying checkerboard-like pattern to provide a unification of form, whereby the individual square and oblong units permit a precise relationship of the areal quantities of the colours used. Through this series Albers investigated the effect of several pure, unmixed colours juxtaposed with one another. In his writings Albers describes how “the paint is applied with a palette knife directly from the tube to the panel, in one primary coat without under or over painting, without correction.” (Getulio Alviani, ed., Josef Albers, Milan 1988, p. 104). The purpose of these experiments was to see how colours affect one another according to the proportions and quantities used and how this then alters the way the viewer perceives its position in space. These experimentations and theories were then carried through to his later series, Homages to the Square.

Josef Albers was born in Bottrop, Germany and originally studied to become a teacher before studying art and entering the Bauhaus from 1920 to 1933. After immigrating to the United States in 1933, Albers taught at Black Mountain College, North Carolina and Yale University, New Haven, where he taught the likes of Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly and Eva Hesse. Both a theoretician and a teacher, Albers was an important influence on generations of young artists. His experimentation with colour interaction and geometric shapes transformed the modern art scene and inspired movements such as Geometric Abstraction, Colour field painting and Op art.