Contented Green

Josef Albers

Josef and Anni Albers made the first of 14 visits to Mexico in the winter of 1935–36. There, they developed an interest in pre-Columbian art and architecture that would influence the abstract painting of Josef Albers in particular. The colors of the natural landscape and the built environment informed the palette of his paintings, including his Variant/Adobe series (1946–66) and his Homages to the Square (1950–76). The local style of contemporary housebuilding there was directly responsible for the visual architecture of the Variant/Adobe works, within which doors and windows can be deciphered.

In 1933, after the Nazis closed the Bauhaus, the German art and design school where they both were instructors, the Alberses moved to North Carolina to teach at Black Mountain College. On their frequent trips to Mexico, they drove to archaeological sites throughout the country—from Monte Albán and Teotihuacán to Uxmal and Chichén Itzá—studying the monumental constructions and amassing a large collection of sculptures and ceramics. For Josef, the complex abstract vocabulary of pre-Columbian art and architecture embodied the principles he and Anni espoused in their work and teaching. With limited knowledge of the cultures that had built the structures they admired, the Alberses celebrated those civilizations’ dynamic geometric forms and truth to materials—values the couple sought to renew in modern art and design.

“In art, tradition is to create, not to revive,” wrote Josef Albers. The works inspired by his decades of travel in Mexico reflect his deep affinities with ancient art while exemplifying a modernist ethic of rigorous experimentation in form, composition, and color theory.

There are just 185 Variant/Adobe paintings by Albers in existence, of which the Guggenheim Museum alone owns 5.

Josef Albers (1888-1976)
Contented Green
Oil on masonite
22 x 26 in : 55.8 x 66.0 cm
Signed with the artist's monogram and dated lower right; Signed, titled, dated and extensively inscribed on the reverse
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York (Inv #5014); Galerie Denise René, Paris, 1980; Private collection, Paris and Milan
Kunsthaus Zürich," Josef Albers, Fritz Glarner, Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart", 28 April - 10 June 1956, cat. 25; Karl-Ernst-Osthaus-Museum, Hagen," Josef Albers", 20 January - 17 February 1957, cat. 41; Kunstverein Freiburg im Breisgau," Josef Albers. Zum 70. Geburtstag", 16 March - 13 April 1958, cat. 36; Galerie Suzanne Bollag, Josef Albers, Zürich, 3 - 30 January 1960, cat. 8; Galerie Renate Boukes, Wiesbaden, "Josef Albers", Spring 1962
Literature / Certification
This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, under no. JAAF 1948.1.8
No Longer Available