“Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as the listening to that which wants to be done: the dictation of the materials.”
Anni Albers (1899 – 1994) was a German textile artist and printmaker. She is perhaps the best known textile artist of the 20th century. Rebelling against her comfortable upbringing by choosing to become an artist, she attended the modernist Bauhaus school, where students lived with challenging and impoverished conditions. For a woman, there there were very few options for further study after the foundation level so she entered the woman’s weaving workshop, but she quickly embraced the process and materials of an art form that she would come to revolutionize. While at the Bauhaus, she met her husband, Josef Albers, who would become a master instructor at the school as well as one of the foremost artist/educators in the world. Anni eventually became the head of the Bauhaus weaving workshop herself.
When the Nazi party pressured the school to close (which it did a year later) the couple were invited to move to America and teach at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Though the Albers had never lived there, they embraced their new chapter of life, sharing their understanding of modernism and art to a new generation of American students. Over the years, they continued to make their own art and collect others’, rarely making work together but always encouraging each other’s creativity with deep understanding.
In 1949, Anni Albers became the first designer to have a one-person exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Albers’s design exhibition at MoMA began in the fall and then toured the US from 1951 until 1953, establishing her as one of the most important designers of the day. Through her long life, she continued in her passion for design as she wrote books and moved into the field of printmaking. She is credited for establishing Design History as a legitimate area of academic study.
Artist’s Note: Did you know that today is National Widow’s Day? Neither did I, till a friend let me know. Since I’m a widow myself, I thought I’d look up “widows in the art world” for my painting inspiration. Anni’s name came up. Josef (who was 11 years older than his wife) died in 1976, leaving Anni as a widow for 18 years. The two of them were famously close colleagues, having met in art school when they were young, enjoying a deep intellectual understanding with each other. I didn’t meet my own husband till I was 35 and he was 40, but we had both been educated in our own art colleges, and were still making when we met…and then, of course, after. I recognize the closeness of having two like-minded individuals making a life together. Especially, I think, as artists, its a rare thing. And yet, they weren’t making things together. They each had their own area of interest. My parents are like that too. My dad is a painter and my mom is a printmaker…and I admire the together/apartness of choosing to live that way as a couple. Like Josef, who developed two important alphabets through the Bauhaus, Vernon was a type designer too. I miss him. That’s why I chose to paint this picture from a photograph of Anni and Josef together. I imagine they were intrinsically entwined.