Josef Albers
Anni Albers

1880s

On 19 March, Josef Albers is born in Bottrop in the Ruhr region of Germany. His father, master craftsman Lorenz Albers, and his mother, Magdalena Schumacher Albers, the daughter of a blacksmith, came from farming families in the Westphalian Sauerland. As a child, Josef often assists his father and learns various techniques in painting, carpentry, etc.

The Albers family home, Horster Strasse 18, Bottrop, Germany

1890s

Anni Albers is born Annelise Else Frieda Fleischmann at 5 Lessingstrasse in the Charlottenburg section of Berlin on June 12, 1899. She is the eldest of three children born to Siegfried Fleischmann (1873–1963) and Toni Ullstein Fleischmann (1877–1946).

Ullstein dining room in Berlin. Photo: Waldemar Titzenthaler

1900s

Age fourteen, Josef is enrolled in a preparatory school in Langenhorst to begin training as a schoolteacher.

Josef continues his education at the Lehrerseminar in Büren and becomes certified as an elementary-school teacher.

Josef teaches in rural village schools in Dülmen and Stadtlohn, before returning to Bottrop to teach in the Josef Schule. He visits the Folkwang Museum in Hagen where two paintings by Cézanne make him feel that his life has changed forever.

Left: Josef Albers, ca. 1908. Right: Annelise and Lotte Fleischmann, Berlin, ca. 1908

1910s

Around 1912, the family moves to a large apartment at 7 Meinekestrasse, near the Kurfürstendamm, and Anni’s mother arranges for her to have an art tutor, Toni Meyer, who comes to the house and has her draw nude figures.

Exempted from military service as a teacher, Josef enrolls at the Königliche Kunstschule (Royal School of Art) in Berlin, where he studies with Philipp Franck, and obtains his qualification as a high-school art teacher. He visits museums and galleries in Berlin, and begins to paint. When he returns to the region around Bottrop, he draws portraits of family and friends and views of the Westphalian towns and countryside.

In about 1915, Anni goes with her mother to Dresden in the hope of studying with Oskar Kokoschka, but he turns her down and discourages her from becoming an artist.

Josef returns to the Ruhr region and again teaches elementary-school. He takes evening printmaking classes at the School of Crafts and Applied Arts in Essen, and goes to Düsseldorf and Duisburg to attend the theatre. He is especially inspired by Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s operetta The Green Flute performed by a traveling company of the Deutsche Theater Berlin. In 1917, he is commissioned to create a window to commemorate fallen soldiers for St. Michael's Church in Bottrop, producing his first work in stained glass.

From 1916 to 1919, Anni studies painting with Martin Brandenburg, an Impressionist painter.

Josef moves to Munich and attends the Royal Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts where he studies with Franz von Stuck.

1920s

Josef learns of the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar, an art and design school founded by Walter Gropius in 1919. He moves to Weimar and enrolls in the Bauhaus, whose teachers include Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger, Johannes Itten, and Oskar Schlemmer.

Anni attends the Kunstgewerbeschule (school of applied arts) in Hamburg for two months. She considers the textile methods there “sissy stuff.” The following year, a friend, Olga Redslob, gives her a brochure for the newly formed Bauhaus in Weimar.

Anni moves to Weimar and applies to study at the Bauhaus, where she was initially turned down. Then a student in the glass workshop, Josef Albers, helps her prepare more thoroughly for the entrance exams, and she’s admitted. Anni enters the mandatory Vorkurs (preliminary course) at the Bauhaus on April 21, 1922, studying with Georg Muche in the first semester and with Johannes Itten in the second.

Josef works in the Bauhaus glass workshop and, in 1923 is asked by Gropius to teach the Vorkurs, or preliminary course, which he shares with László Moholy-Nagy. He undertakes major commissions for large stained glass windows in several important new buildings.

After completing the Vorkurs, Anni enters the weaving workshop in 1923. There she assists in dyeing yarns and makes her first wall hangings and yard materials. She and her fellow students participate in the first official Bauhaus exhibition in 1923, furnishing the experimental Haus am Horn with textiles.

Anni’s writings are published for the first time. Her piece on “Bauhausweberei,” appears in a special Bauhaus issue of the magazine Junge Menschen, as part of Gropius’s drive to elicit public support for the Bauhaus. Her article “Wohnökonomie” is published in a women's magazine. It promotes the Bauhaus idea of design for efficient living.

The Bauhaus moves from Weimar to the industrial city of Dessau. On 9 May, Josef marries Annelise Fleischmann, a student in the Bauhaus weaving workshop. Since the Bauhaus Dessau has no glass studio, Josef produces sandblasted glass paintings with the Berlin firm of Puhl & Wagner.

On May 9, 1925, three years after Anni first met Josef Albers at the Bauhaus in Weimar, they are married. They travel to Italy for their honeymoon. That same year the Bauhaus moves from Weimar to its new structure in Dessau, designed by Gropius.

While continuing his teaching, Josef designs large-scale windows for the newly built Grassi Museum of Applied Art in Leipzig and the Ullsteinhaus publishing work in Berlin. He also makes tableware and designs a typeface.

Anni begins to work on the double and jacquard looms. Color illustration of her wall hangings are published in the German journal Offset and in Tapis et Tissus, a portfolio selected by Sonia Delaunay.

Anni designs wall coverings and curtains for the Theater Café Altes in Dessau. She also designs the curtains for a theater in Oppeln. That same year, the Alberses take a trip by banana boat to Tenerife.

Josef and Anni Albers move into one of the new Masters’ Houses designed by Gropius. Josef becomes director of the furniture and wallpaper workshops. His work is included in a traveling exhibition organized by Hannes Meyer. He acquires his first camera – a Leica – and begins to photograph his surroundings and his colleagues.

Gropius leaves the Bauhaus, and Hannes Meyer, a Swiss architect, takes his place. The Alberses move into the master’s house vacated by the Moholy-Nagys and become neighbors of the Klees and the Kandinskys. Anni becomes an assistant in the weaving workshop under Stölzl’s direction, and from September to December the following year and again in the fall of 1931 she replaces Stölzl as acting director.

In the 1929 summer recess, the Alberses travel to Avignon, Geneva, Biarritz, and Paris and in August to Barcelona for the International Exposition. Anni also designs a wall-covering material for the new auditorium of the Allgemeinen Deutschen Gewerkschaftsbundesschule in Bernau, for which Meyer is the architect.

1930s

Josef exhibits his small-scale glass works at the Bauhaus, and in traveling exhibitions throughout Germany and Switzerland. The Nazi Party attains the majority in the local Dessau government and cuts off funding to the Bauhaus, which relocates to Berlin as a private school. In April, Josef and the six other remaining Bauhaus masters decide to close the Bauhaus rather than run it with the control of the Third Reich. Josef resumes his printmaking. Josef is invited to head the Art Department of Black Mountain College, a new liberal arts college in rural western North Carolina. Josef and Anni Albers accept the offer and arrive in New York on the SS Europa on November 24, 1933.

Anni is awarded her Bauhaus diploma for the wallcovering material for the Bernau auditorium. The same year, two of her works are shown in Ausstellung Moderner Bildwirkereien, an exhibition of Modern textiles. During the summer she travels with Josef to San Sebastián, Spain, and to the Tyrol, Ascona and Lake Maggiore in Italy. In August, Mies van der Rohe replaced Meyer as director of the Bauhaus, and appointed Reich as the new director of the weaving workshop.

At the important Deutsche Bauausstellung (German building exhibition) in Berlin in July, Anni's work is awarded the Stadt Berlin Prize.

Funding is withdrawn from the Bauhaus by the city of Dessau and the school is forced to move to Berlin. Josef and Anni move to an apartment at 28 Sensburgerallee, in the Charlottenburg neighborhood of Berlin.

On April 11, the Bauhaus closes its doors for the final time. Anni meets, by chance, the American architect Philip Johnson, and invites him to have tea with her and Josef in their apartment, where Johnson is particularity impressed by Anni's textiles. On August 17, Johnson writes to the Alberses, inviting them on behalf of the trustees of Black Mountain College, to come to the United States. The couple arrive in New York on the S.S. Europa on November 24.

Albers teaches at Black Mountain College while learning English. He continues his printmaking and begins painting in oils. Invited by Cuban designer Clara Porset, the Alberses travel to Havana, where Josef’s woodcuts are exhibited and where he gives three public lectures. An exhibition of his woodcuts opens at Galleria II Milione in Milan, Italy. Josef makes his first abstract oil paintings.

In December, the Alberses make the first of fourteen visits to Mexico. They travel to Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Acapulco and visit the sites of Monte Albán, Mitla, and Teotihuacan.

The Alberses spend the summer months in Mexico. Josef’s prints are shown in an exhibition in the headquarters of the newspaper El Nacional. He begins a series of abstract line drawings and paintings.

Inspired by her Mexican travels Anni makes two monumental weavings, Monte Albán and Ancient Writing.

Josef’s paintings are included in the first exhibition of the American Abstract Artists group at Squibb Galleries in New York City; Josef and Anni again spend the summer in Mexico.

The Alberses put together an exhibition of Mayan art at Black Mountain College. In New York, Anni is at the docks to meet their former Bauhaus colleagues Walter and Ise Gropius who are emigrating to the USA. Anni’s parents arrived in Veracruz, Mexico, on June 18, meeting the Alberses (who were on their third Mexican trip) in Mexico City the following day.

Josef and Anni help the Gropiuses and Herbert Bayer assemble material for the Museum of Modern Art exhibition Bauhaus 1919–1928.

Anni becomes a United States citizen on May 17, 1939; Josef does the same on December 12. In June, they travel to Mexico again for Josef to teach at Gobert College in Tlalpan.

Josef and Anni Albers at Black Mountain College, 1949.

1940s

The Alberses take a sabbatical leave from Black Mountain College and spend the summer in La Luz, New Mexico. In the autumn, they continue on to Mexico. In the spring of 1941, while teaching at Harvard University, Josef begins drawing studied for a series of zinc-plate lithographs, which are printed in 1942.

In the 1940s, Anni begins to make small-scale weavings, which she mounts on linen bases and frames. The weavings are exhibited widely in the 1940s, and she is in demand as a teacher, a lecturer, and a writer. On May 5, 1941, an exhibition of jewelry that Albers had made with a student, Alex Reed, from curtain rings, hairpins, paper clips, bottle caps, glass drawer knobs, clay insulation, metal washers, and other household items, opens at the Willard Gallery in New York. The exhibition then travels to the Katherine Kuh Gallery, Chicago; the Addison Gallery of American At, Andover, Massachusetts; the Fitchburg Art Center, Fitchburg, Massachusetts; and the Museum of Art, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts

Josef continues teaching and begins several new painting series.

Anni receives a commission from Philip Johnson to create a drapery fabric for the Rockefeller Guest House at 242 East 52nd Street in New York City. Using cotton chenille, white plastic, and copper foil yarn she creates a fabric which is transformed into a sparkling surface at night.

In October, the Alberses embark on a year-long sabbatical from Black Mountain College. They travel by car across the United States before continuing on to Mexico. Josef paints his first Variants, which evoke the domestic adobe architecture of Mexico.

With the pictorial weaving La Luz, Anni inaugurates a new phase of her work that will continue through the next two decades. In Mexico, Anni collects pre-Columbian and contemporary textiles for the Harriett Engelhardt Memorial Collection at Black Mountain College (now housed at the Yale University Art Gallery).

Josef is invited to serve on the Advisory Council of the School of the Arts, Yale University. His first post-war exhibition in Germany is held at the Galerie Herbert Herrmann in Stuttgart. He makes his first engravings on plastic laminate.

The Alberses resign from Black Mountain College in February and leave at the end of the school year in May. They travel to Mexico, where Josef teaches at the University of Mexico during the summer. On their return to the United States, he teaches at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and at Pratt Institute in New York. He begins making Structural Constellations.

At the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Philip Johnson organizes Anni Albers Textiles, which is held from September 13 to October 30. It is the first presentation of the work of a single textile artist to be shown at the museum. It is also the first solo show of a woman artist. It includes studies of texture, small experimental textile samples, yard materials, pictorial weavings, and hanging screens. From 1950-53 the exhibition travels to twenty-six museums in the United States and Canada.

1950s

Josef starts his Homage to the Square series of oil paintings in New York City. In January and February, he is visiting critic at the Yale University Art School and visiting professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in the summer. In the autumn, he is appointed chair of the newly created Department of Design at Yale, and the Alberses move to New Haven. Josef designs the brick wall America above the fireplace in the new Harvard University Graduate Commons, designed by Walter Gropius.

Invited by Walter Gropius, Anni contributes to the interiors of the Harvard University Graduate Center. Anni designs textiles for bedspreads and room dividing curtains for student dormitories.

In February, Josef teaches in the architecture department of the University of Havana, Cuba. In the summer, he and Anni travel to Mexico, where they visit the Maya ruins in the Yucatán for the first time.

Anni continues her experiments with textiles for production, and works with the manufacturer Knoll on the realization of her design as yar materials. She makes twenty-four of her thirty-six pictorial weavings during this decade, and she teaches at art schools across the United States.

Josef teaches a six-week course in the architecture department of the Pontificia Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile, and lectures at the Institute of Technology in Lima, Peru. In December, he travels to Ulm, Germany, where he is visiting professor at the new Hochschule für Gestaltung.

The Alberses travel to Hawaii in the summer. Josef teaches at the University of Honolulu. The exhibition Josef and Anni Albers Painting and Weaving is held from 1 July to 2 August 1954 at the Honolulu Art Academy, where Josef gives the lecture ‘Color: A Magic Power.' Josef is appointed visiting professor at the Hochschule für Gestaltung, Ulm, West Germany.

The Honolulu Academy of Arts has an exhibition of Anni’s weavings.

Josef returns to the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm as visiting professor for the summer.

The Yale University Art Gallery holds a retrospective exhibition of Josef’s work.

Josef has his first exhibition at Galerie Denise René in Paris.

In January, Anni’s ark panels for Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, her first synagogue commission, are installed.

Josef retires as head of the Department of Design at Yale but remains on as a visiting critic.

Josef’s mural Two Structural Constellations is engraved in the lobby of the Corning Glass Building in Manhattan.

On Designing, a compilation of Anni’s writings, is published by Pellango Press in New Haven. Also in 1959 the exhibition Anni Albers, Pictorial Weavings is presented by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, before it travels to the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh; Baltimore Museum of Art; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut; and Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston. “The Pliable Plane: Textiles in Architecture,” a lengthy article by Anni based on her work designing textiles for industry, appears in Perspecta, a journal published by the Yale School of Architecture.

1960s

Josef designs the mural Two Portals for the lobby of the Time and Life Building in Manhattan and a brick altar wall for St Patrick’s Church, Oklahoma City.

Anni recieves a second synagogue commission, for ark panels for Congregation B’nai Israel, Woonsocket, Rhode Island. That same year the American Institute of Architects recognizes the significance of Albers’s work within their profession and honors her with the AIA’s Craftmanship Medal.

Josef is awarded an honorary doctorate in fine arts from Yale University, one of the first of numerous honorary degrees he will receive over the next fourteen years. He is invited as visiting artist to the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles, where he creates stone lithographs.

Josef’s mural Manhattan is installed in the Pan Am Building in New York. Repeat and Reverse, a structural constellation sculpture in stainless steel, is installed over the entryway of Yale’s newly completed Art and Architecture building. The portfolio Interaction of Color, with text by Albers and eighty screenprinted plates, mostly by his students and based on his color course, is published by Yale University Press.

Accompanying Josef to the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles, Anni begins to experiment with lithography techniques, creating Enmeshed I and Enmeshed II, her first works in this medium. She is also commissioned to write an entry on hand-weaving for a new edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica published in 1963, and this becomes the first chapter of On Weaving, her treatise on “textile fundamentals and methods” published by Wesleyan University Press in 1965.

Josef is invited back to Tamarind as a fellow. The International Council of the Museum at Modern Art in New York organizes the exhibition Josef Albers: Homage to the Square. The exhibition opens in Caracas, Venezuela, in March 1964 and travels to museums throughout the Americas until January 1967.

Anni is invited back to Tamarind as a fellow and produces the portfolio Line Involvements.

Josef gives a series of guest lectures at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut; they are published as Search Versus Re-Search in 1969.

Anni’s seminal text On Weaving is published by Wesleyan University Press.

Josef receives the Carnegie Institute award for painting at the Pittsburgh International Exhibition. His painted mural Growth and brick mural loggia wall are installed on the campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Six Prayers, a commemorative tapestry of six panels is commissioned by the Jewish Museum in New York.

Josef receives the Grand Prix at the third Print Biennial (Bienal Americana de Grabado), Santiago, Chile, and the Grand Prix for painting from the State of Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany. He is elected a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. The traveling exhibition Albers, organized by the Westfälisches Landesmuseum fûr Kunst und Kulturgeschichte in Münster, opens in April 1968 and travels in Europe until January 1970.

Anni and Josef in the garden at 8 North Forest Circle, New Haven, Connecticut, ca. 1967

1970s

The Alberses move from 8 North Forest Circle, New Haven, to 808 Birchwood Drive, Orange, Connecticut. Josef is made an honorary citizen of his birthplace, Bottrop.

When the Alberses move to 808 Birchwood Drive in Orange, about ten miles from New Haven, Anni gives up weaving altogether in favor of printmaking. An exhibition of Anni’s work—her first major show in Europe—is shown at the Kunstmuseum in Düsseldorf and at the Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin, in 1975. She continues her experiments in printmaking, working with Ken Tyler (whom she knew from Tamarind) at Gemini G.E.L. IN Los Angeles and later at Tyler Graphics in New York, and extending her techniques in screenprinting and etching.

Josef is the first living artist to have a solo retrospective exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Josef designs a steel structural constellation sculpture Two Supraportas for the façade of the Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte; Gemini, a stainless-steel structural constellation relief for the lobby of the Grand Avenue National Bank in Kansas City, Missouri; and Reclining Figure, a mosaic mural for the Celanese Building at the Rockefeller Center, Manhattan. Formulation: Articulation, a screenprint portfolio that reprises Josef’s life’s work, is published.

Anni decides to produce prints at a commercial printing house, Fox Press, in Hartford, Connecticut. It is the first instance of fine art prints being created in this sort of facility, and she invents unprecedented techniques for using the new technology.

Josef designs a free-standing outdoor sculptural wall for the campus at Stanford University. He receives the College Art Association’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

Anni combines the screen-print technique done at one workshop with commercial processes done at Fox Press, using the unprecedented juxtaposition for extraordinary results in the prints PO I, PO II, and WCO.

Josef receives the Fine Arts Medal of the American Institute of Architects.

Josef designs the structural constellation sculpture Wrestling for the outside elevation of Seidlers Mutual Life Center in Sydney, Australia. Josef celebrates his 88th birthday on 19 March and dies on 25 March in New Haven. He is buried in Orange, Connecticut.

Anni, while deliberately avoiding what she considers to be the stereotypical role of "artist's window," begins to assume the vast responsibility of handling Josef's legacy.

The Brooklyn Museum presents Anni Albers: Prints and Drawings, a comprehensive exhibition of her works on paper.

1980s

The textile artist Jack Lenor Larsen presents Anni with the American Craft Council Gold Medal in New York.

Anni designs a range of textiles for Sunar.

Anni presides over the opening of the Josef Albers Museum in Bottrop, Germany, Josef’s birthplace.

Connections, a portfolio of nine screenprints, some based on her earlier designs from the Bauhaus, is published in Milan by Fausta Squatriti Editore.

A retrospective exhibition, The Woven and Graphic Art of Anni Albers, was presented at the Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., in 1985 and traveled to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, in 1986.

In December, a selection of her textiles, pictorial weavings, drawings, and prints, together with a selection of Josef’s work, is exhibited in Josef and Anni Albers, organized by Maximillian Schell, at the Villa Stuck in Munich and subsequently at the Josef Albers Museum.

Anni with her siblings, Hans Farman and Lotte Benfey, at Anni's 85th birthday party, 1984

1990s

Anni travels to London to accept an honorary doctorate from the Royal College of Art. She also receives an honorary doctorate from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. Anni’s work is once again seen in the Museum of Modern Art in 1990, this time alongside works by one of her former Bauhaus colleagues, in the exhibition Gunta Stölzl, Anni Albers.

On 9 May, the same day as her wedding anniversary, Anni dies peacefully at her home in Orange, Connecticut. She is buried next to Josef.