Anni & Josef Albers
Theirs was a love story that began at the Bauhaus school. It was fated to be iconic.
“Anni and Josef Albers were unique as individuals; together, they were unlike any other paired couple. The words that Josef used to describe color performance pertained to them as people: they were fiercely ‘independent’ and ‘interdependent’ to rare effect.”
Nicolas Fox Weber, “Anni and Josef Albers: Equal and Unequal”
Theirs was a love story that began at the Bauhaus school. It was fated to be iconic. The year was 1922, the Bauhaus in Weimar was still in its adolescence but was already ground zero for creative exploration. Josef, a student from Bottrop, had arrived two years prior and was already a number of years into his experimentations with glass and paint when Anni, a sheltered Berliner, would arrive and be guided towards the loom. This was the fate most female students were met with upon enrollment at the Bauhaus, though Anni would come to change the medium as the world knew it. After eloping in 1925, their lives would become enmeshed as lovers and collaborators. A collective unconscious would develop between the two so consuming that even individual projects would begin to influence each other. They would travel as a powerful creative unit from the Bauhaus to Black Mountain College, through tours of South America and while collaborating with countless others (Ruth Asawa, the Eameses) before they would wrinkle and gray side by side in Connecticut.
Theirs was a love story that began at the Bauhaus but is now indelible thanks to the meticulous work of archivists. This month, we have been examining said documentation via a book titled, “Anni and Josef Albers: Equal and Unequal” which is a detailed anthology of their lives and careers and makes a pointed effort to print their individual works as diptychs. What would come of the union between Josef and Anni is best told through imagery, after all. Witnessing the progression of their careers in this way reveals what Weber describes as their being “equal in passion and power, different in the infinite small specifics that distinguish all people from one another and bound by the rarest love and partnership”. It reveals shared motifs, collective exploration of shape and color and translations between materials. But moreover, it emphasizes the depth of their shared perspective; they made a deliberate pact to commit to the ongoing beautification of the world.