Lot 110
  • 110

Josef Albers

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • Josef Albers
  • Homage to the Square
  • signed with the artist's monogram and dated 65; variously inscribed on the reverse
  • oil on masonite
  • 45.7 by 45.7 cm. 18 by 18 in.


Waddington Galleries, London
Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although there are more blue undertones in the original, and the catalogue illustration fails to fully convey the subtle texture of the surface. Condition: Please refer to the Contemporary Art Department for a professional condition report.
"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, Homage to the Square 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.

In Homage to the Square, the viewer is presented with a composition of vivid and bright green coloured squares, elegantly structured in three repeated and enlarged quadrants surrounded by a pristine white edge. The central square is executed in a dominant dark and dense teal, forming the focal point in the composition, whilst the two enlarged squares are painted in softer tones. The hazy aquarium-green amid becomes fainter as it gradually shifts to the bright and crystal clear green hue on the outer quadrant. From Albers’ outlook, the interaction between colours is absolute: “An element added to an element must produce besides its sum at least one interesting relationship. The more different relationships that arise and the more intensive they are, the more elements enhance one another, the more valuable the result” (Josef Albers quoted in: Exh. Cat. Cologne, Galerie Karsten Greve, Josef Albers, 1989, p. 21).

Seemingly effortless in appearance, Study for Homage to the Square is the result of decades of creative and academic research, first materialised in 1950 when the artist was sixtytwo years of age and continually developed 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 painting 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 explained; “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” (the artist quoted in: Eugen Gomringer, Josef Albers, New York, 1967, p. 138).

As such, colours are always subject to the dialogue with other colours and therefore do not exist by themselves. This colour-engagement is established by a strict concept: the arrangement of squares with exact intervals according to four different layouts. Although the intervals to the edges of the squares remain the same horizontally, they diverge vertically and by doing so elicit a certain depth in the picture.

As one of the most influential teachers of the post-war generation, Josef Albers’ iconic paintings are amongst the most important abstract works to have been created. Despite the apparent 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 thus offers a crucial insight into Josef Albers’ influential practice.