From the Bauhaus to the Hills of North Carolina

The artist Josef Albers (1888-1976) had many ties to the state of North Carolina and to our own university. Born in Germany, Albers attended the Bauhaus in 1920 and, in 1925, became the first student to be offered a faculty position. He worked there until 1933, when the Nazis forced its closure. Albers and his wife Anni emigrated to America, where Albers became head of the art department at Black Mountain College near Asheville, NC. He remained there until 1949, when he left to become the chairman of the department of design at the Yale University Art School.

Letter from Josef Albers (from the Department of Art Records, #40077, University Archives).

Albers was already an established artist and well known professor when he arrived in the United States, and he was soon lecturing and exhibiting frequently throughout the country. During his tenure at Black Mountain College, he had three shows at UNC’s Person Hall Art Gallery, the precursor to the Ackland Art Museum.

In 1937, Albers wrote to the North Carolina State Arts Society to inquire about showing his abstract work in Chapel Hill. Russell T. Smith, the University’s first full-time teacher of art and head of UNC’s newly established art department, responded a year later, inviting Albers to exhibit at the Person Hall Art Gallery with W. Lester Stevens, a landscape painter from Massachusetts.

Receipt of Delivery (from the Department of Art Records, #40077, University Archives).

The show, which ran from January 8 to January 31, creatively juxtaposed 17 of Albers’s non-objective, “ultra-modern” works with the conservative, New England landscapes by Stevens.

Although there are no photographs, or even a program from the exhibition, since the show later traveled and the Gallery had to ship his paintings to the next venue, we know the titles of the works that were shown because of a receipt of delivery from the Addison Gallery of American Art in Massachusetts.

Letter from Albers (from the Department of Art Records, #40077, University Archives).

Albers exhibited again in 1943 and 1949 at the Person Hall Gallery. In 1943, his works were shown along side the weavings of his wife, Anni. His one-man show of 1949 would be his last at Person Gallery and his last as a resident of North Carolina. In June of that year the Albers resigned from their positions at Black Mountain and relocated to Connecticut.

In 1967, The UNC Art Department recognized Josef Albers with an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts for his many artistic and academic accomplishments.

You can find more records related to the Albers exhibitions in the Department of Art Records, collection 40077, in the University Archives.

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