Josef Albers

Albers in a radish patch. Courtesy of Western Regional Archives.Fig. 1

Josef Albers was married to Anni, a woman of Jewish descent who he had met in Dessau, Germany while teaching at the Bauhaus art college in Dessau. She would later teach Handicrafts and Art at Black Mountain College after emigrating with her husband to the United States.[1]

Albers was of German descent. He taught at the Bauhaus Art Institution in Dessau, Germany from 1922 to 1933 until it was shut down by the local rising fascist community due to the school’s ideologies and high regards for the arts. After an investigation and pressure from the Dessau Town Council, the school had no alternatives but to close.[2] His artwork had also been published and featured in Germany, France, Switzerland, Holland, Italy, Czechoslovakia, the United States, Cuba, and more.

A letter from Theodore Dreier, the Treasurer of BMC, to the Commissioner of Immigration on citizenship blanks for Josef and Anni Albers. Courtesy of Western Regional Archives.Fig. 2

He was offered employment at Black Mountain College on September 2, 1933 and received his employment December 12, 1933, both via letter. He and his wife attained a Nonquota Visa to the United States, which were visas that were not subject to numerical limitation in the number of visas issued. During this time, nonquota visas were also issued to professors attempting to emigrate into the country, as well as natives from western nations. After being issued his visa, Albers emigrated to the United States with his wife, and teaching as the Head of the Art Department at Black Mountain College on January 9, 1934. [3]

For a total of eight weeks, the customs department held the Albers’ belongings for unknown reasons. After their belongings were returned to their place of residence at Black Mountain College, Albers had found that a good portion of his belongings had been riffled through, ruined, and destroyed. Their claim to be reimbursed for the destroyed materials was denied July 16, 1934, when the customs department took no blame for the incident.

A picture of Anni Albers. Courtesy of Western Regional Archives.Fig. 3

The Albers also experienced great difficulty attempting to travel or leave the country, even upon invitation or for work purposes.[4] Despite the Albers’ rough reception to the United States, they were able to resume their careers in the United States at Black Mountain College. Both Josef and Anni stayed with the college for most of its duration, until 1949. Albers had great influences on the philosophy and practices of the school, from the manner in which he was able to teach a class on a small budget, to the relaxed atmosphere he promoted between students and instructors.


[1] Frederick A. Horowitz, “What Josef Albers Taught at Black Mountain College, and What Black Mountain College Taught Albers,” Black Mountain College Studies Journal, n.d., Accessed April 15, 2017.

[2] Museum Fur Gestaltung, “1919-1933.” Bauhaus-Archiv, n.d., Accessed April 6, 2017.

[3] Theodore Dreier, letter to The Collector of Internal Revenue, December 18, 934, Josef Albers Dossier, Black Mountain College 1933-1956 Faculty Files, Box 1, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

[4] Theodore Dreier, letter to The Commissioner of Immigration, February 26, 1935, Josef Albers Personal Dossier, Black Mountain College 1933-1956 Faculty Files, Box 1, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

Fig. 1 Albers in a Radish Patch, Photographer H. Dearstyne. Duberman Collection, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

Fig. 2 Albers, Josef, Black Mountain College 1933-1956 Faculty Files, Box , Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

Fig. 3 Anni in Color, Photographer H. Duberman Collection, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

css.php