Josef Albers

Study for Homage to the Square: Departing in Yellow


On loan

ACMI (Melbourne, Australia): Pudong

Josef Albers 1888–1976
Oil paint on fibreboard
Support: 762 × 762 mm
frame: 780 × 780 × 30 mm
Purchased 1965

Display caption

In 1950, at the age of 62, Albers began what would become his signature series, the Homage to the Square. Over the next 26 years, until his death in 1976, he produced hundreds of variations on the basic compositional scheme of three or four squares set inside each other, with the squares slightly gravitating towards the bottom edge. What may at first appear to be a very narrow conceptual framework reveals itself as one of extraordinary perceptual complexity. In 1965, he wrote of the series: ‘They all are of different palettes, and, therefore, so to speak, of different climates. Choice of the colours used, as well as their order, is aimed at an interaction - influencing and changing each other forth and back. Thus, character and feeling alter from painting to painting without any additional ‘hand writing’ or, so-called, texture. Though the underlying symmetrical and quasi-concentric order of squares remains the same in all paintings – in proportion and placement – these same squares group or single themselves, connect and separate in many different ways.’

Gallery label, December 2012

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Catalogue entry

Josef Albers 1888-1976

T00783 Study for Homage to the Square Departing in Yellow 1964

Inscribed 'A64' b.r. and on back '30 x 30"' and 'Study for | Homage to the Square: | "Departing in Yellow" | Ground: 6 coats of Liquitex (permt. pigment) | painting: paints used - from center : | pure | Cadmium Yellow Pale (Rhenish) | Cadmium Yellow Clair #2 (Lefebvre) | Naples Yellow (pmt pigment) | Naples Yellow (Winsor & Newton) | all in one primary coat | all directly from the tube | Varnish: VARNISH WITH BUTYL METHACRYLATE | POLYMER IN XYLENE DANIEL GOLDREYER LTD APRIL 1964 | Albers 1964'
Oil on masonite panel, 30 x 30 (76.2 x 76.2)
Purchased from Gimpel Fils (Grant-in-Aid) 1965
Prov: With Gimpel Fils, London (purchased from the artist 1964)
Exh: 40 New Paintings by Josef Albers, Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, September-October 1964 (works not listed); Josef Albers: Homage to the Square, Gimpel & Hanover Galerie, Zurich, June-August 1965 (16); Gimpel Fils, London, September-October 1965 (16)
Repr: Michael Compton, Optical and Kinetic Art (London 1967), pl.2 in colour; Cyril Barrett, Op Art (London 1970), pl.39 in colour; Art International, XIV, 20 September 1970, p.77

This picture is of the A format with all the squares, the colours being, from the centre out: Cadmium Yellow Pale (Rhenish), Cadmium Yellow Clair No.2 (Lefebvre), Naples Yellow (permanent pigment) and Naples Yellow (Winsor and Newton). Albers stated in April 1966 that the versions on other scales included one in the maximum size of 48 x 48in (122 x 122cm) made in 1965.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.6, reproduced p.6

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