Exceptional Works: Josef Albers, Park, c. 1923 | David Zwirner
A grey title graphic with the following information: Josef Albers Park, c. 1923 Glass, partly painted, set in lead, and framed in black wood 19 1/4 x 15 inches 48.9 x 38.1 cm.

“With my wall glass paintings I have developed a new kind of glass picture.”


—Josef Albers, “On Glass Pictures,” in Josef Albers

A detail of a glass work by Josef Albers, titled Park, dated c. 1923.

Josef Albers

Park, c. 1923

Glass, partly painted, set in lead, and framed in black wood

19 1/4 x 15 inches
48.9 x 38.1 cm
Framed: 24 3/4 x 20 3/8 inches
62.9 x 51.8 cm

Park is one of Josef Albers’s most significant and unique works, and one of the most important glassworks in a series created between 1920 and 1932, during his time as a teacher at the Bauhaus.

Employing a narrow palette of predominantly blue and green glass housed in a geometric grid of soldered and painted lines, this early, outstanding example of a glasswork is firmly situated within the lineage of Albers’s modernist practice. The “climate of color” explored here marks a pivotal moment in Albers’s development as an artist, precipitating his concentration on subtle modulations in color groups that reached its apogee in the Homage to the Square series nearly thirty years later.

Park was one of Josef’s great treasures,” Nicholas Fox Weber explains. “A sublime example of what he could do with the play of colors and the wonders of the square.”

This work is being presented concurrently in TEFAF, The European Fine Art Fair's online viewing room.

While earlier works were made with irregular shards of found glass, here Albers introduces precise pre-cut squares—samples he sourced directly from glassmakers. The glass is partially overpainted, modulating the transparency of the surface and producing a range of textures and tonal densities. Arranged in a mosaic-like configuration reminiscent of traditional stained-glass windows, the crystalline material is held together by lead armature.

A reconstruction of the stained glass window Rosa Mystica pro nobis, designed by Josef Albers for St. Michael’s Church in Bottrop, Germany, which was destroyed during world war 1.

Reconstruction of the stained glass window Rosa Mystica pro nobis for St. Michael’s Church in Bottrop, Germany, which was destroyed during World War 1

Reconstruction of the stained glass window Rosa Mystica pro nobis for St. Michael’s Church in Bottrop, Germany, which was destroyed during World War 1

In 1917, about six years prior to starting this series, Albers received his first public commission, from the Church of St. Michael in his hometown of Bottrop, Germany, for which he created a glass window with a red rose that symbolized the Virgin Mary.

When he entered the Bauhaus in 1920, Albers was intent on developing his work in glass. “I wanted to go into a workshop and I wanted to make stained glass. That was my old dream. Glass pictures,” he later recalled.”

“At the Bauhaus in Weimar … I applied for the study of glass painting. The glass workshop … had just been closed. Thus the conference of Bauhaus masters accepted me to the workshop of wall painting—arguing that glass painting is a brand of wall painting. Disagreeing with this … I decided to study on my own…. With the worst inflation possible … no artist materials were obtainable. Thus with knapsack and hammer I went to the dumping grounds and broke glass bottles in order to find glass shard of all colors possible. Then, at my studio, I ordered and juxtaposed such shards to related size, shape, color, and arrived at various groupings, assemblages, or compositions.”


—Josef Albers, quoted in Josef Albers. Vitraux, dessins, gravures, typographie, meubles

An installation view of an exhibition titled Josef Albers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1971.

Installation view, Josef Albers, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1971 (Left: Rheinische Legende, 1921; Right: Figure, 1921)

Installation view, Josef Albers, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1971 (Left: Rheinische Legende, 1921; Right: Figure, 1921)

“The first fruits of Albers’s early obsession with glass composition … lie within the tradition of medieval glass windows. They are made up of glass fragments of varying shapes, sizes, and densities, which act as carefully articulated color areas against the black of the metal frames…. Devoid of any sense of academic exercise, the works are fully resolved and highly expressive, reflecting the intellectual energy and the perceptual discipline that must have gone into them.”


—Fred Licht, “Albers: Glass, Color, and Light,” in Josef Albers: Glass, Color, Light (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1994)

A drawing by Marcel Breuer, titled Josef Albers with his painting, dated 1921–22.

Marcel Breuer’s Josef Albers with his painting, 1921–22, depicts Albers with a glass painting and a tool he used to break discarded glass bottles for materials

Marcel Breuer’s Josef Albers with his painting, 1921–22, depicts Albers with a glass painting and a tool he used to break discarded glass bottles for materials

“In the early years of the Bauhaus, he became intrigued for the first time with the form of a square which he encountered in mosaic samples from glassmakers, and assembling the square as the basis of Park, he extended it, he multiplied it, he varied it, but he always relied on it as he would in the paintings for which he’s most famous.”


—Nicholas Fox Weber

A detail from a glass work by Josef Albers, titled Park, dated c. 1923.

Josef Albers, Park, c. 1923 (detail)

Josef Albers, Park, c. 1923 (detail)

“Wall-painting entails painting with indirect light, the reflection of light which comes from in front of the surface and bounces off that surface plane. I wanted to work with direct light, the light which comes from behind the surface and filters through that surface plane. In this case, light is a volume, not a surface illusion.”


—Josef Albers, in Margit Rowell, “On Albers’ Color,” Artforum, January 1972

A detail from a glass work by Josef Albers, titled Park, dated c.1923.

Josef Albers, Park, c. 1923 (detail)

Josef Albers, Park, c. 1923 (detail)

“When we consider Josef’s Homages to the Square of subsequent years, we’re very aware of the way that he used a white background so that paint could have maximum luminosity. That came from his early experiments with glass, Park being the prime example, with the light passing through it so that the blues absolutely vibrate.”


—Nicholas Fox Weber

A work by Josef Albers, titled Homage to the Square: Beaming, dated 1963.

Josef Albers

Study for Homage to the Square: Beaming, 1963

Oil paint on fibreboard

30 x 30 inches
76.2 x 76.2 cm

Tate. Photo © Tate.

“In Park, Albers set aside the seductive powers of color in order to reveal its spiritual energy.... Light, whether evoked by pure color combinations (as in the Homage to the Square paintings) or by rhythmic interactions and rapid switches between reflecting and matte surfaces (as in the elaborate glass works of the 1920s), represents illumination in the spiritual sense of the word.”


—Fred Licht, “Albers: Glass, Color, and Light”

An installation view of an exhibition titled Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity at The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2009.

Installation view, Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2009. Photo by Thomas Griesel

Installation view, Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2009. Photo by Thomas Griesel

“He saw the passage of light through glass as something of great religious meaning and a great source of beauty.”


—Nicholas Fox Weber

A photo of Stained glass windows designed by Josef Albers for the Sommerfeld Residence, dated c. 1920–1921.

Josef Albers, Stained glass windows for the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig, installed 1923–1926 (reconstructed)

Josef Albers, Stained glass windows for the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig, installed 1923–1926 (reconstructed)

A photo of Stained glass windows for the Sommerfeld Residence, designed by Josef Albers in c. 1920–1921.

Josef Albers, Stained glass windows for the Sommerfeld Residence, c. 1920–1921

Josef Albers, Stained glass windows for the Sommerfeld Residence, c. 1920–1921

Park is a pivotal piece in Albers’s overall glass oeuvre. The strong, architectonic forms of Park’s composition create a sense of solid shapes, reduced to their basic essence which generates a feeling of architectural refinement. After Park, Albers continued to concentrate on architectural compositions.”


—Oliver Barker, “To Open Eyes: Josef Albers at the Bauhaus,” in Josef Albers. Vitraux, dessins, gravures, typographie, meubles

A photo of stained glass windows designed by Gerhard Richter at a Gothic monastery in Tholey, Germany, in 2020.

Gerhard Richter’s stained glass windows in Tholey Abbey, Cologne, 2020. Courtesy Tholey Abbey

Gerhard Richter’s stained glass windows in Tholey Abbey, Cologne, 2020. Courtesy Tholey Abbey

A photo of a glass window work by Sigmar Polke, titled Windows for the Zürich Grossmünster, dated 2009.

Sigmar Polke, Church Windows, Grossmünster, Zurich. Agate Window, 2009. Photo © Grossmünster, Zurich

Sigmar Polke, Church Windows, Grossmünster, Zurich. Agate Window, 2009. Photo © Grossmünster, Zurich

The influence of Albers’s architectonic work in stained glass can be traced, for example, in the work of Luis Barragán, whose design for Tlalpan Chapel in Mexico City (1952–1955) uses grids of squares through which light filters into the interior. More recently, Gerhard Richter has completed an installation of three stained-glass windows at a Gothic monastery in Tholey, Germany—a project he has stated will be his last major artwork.

Photos of the front and back covers of a book titled Josef Albers: Glass, Color, Light from Guggenheim Museum Publications, dated 1994.

Josef Albers: Glass, Color, Light (Guggenheim Museum Publications, 1994)

Josef Albers: Glass, Color, Light (Guggenheim Museum Publications, 1994)

Inquire about works by Josef Albers

    Read More Read Less

      Read More Read Less

          Inquire

          To learn more about this artwork, please provide your contact information.

          By sharing your details you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

          Inquire

          To learn more about available works, please provide your contact information

          By sharing your details you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.