Skip to main content

Josef Albers papers

Call Number: MS 32

Scope and Contents

The Josef Albers Papers consist of correspondence, subject files, printed material, and family memorabilia, which document the personal life and professional career of Josef Albers. The earliest material in the papers reflects Albers family history and his work at the Bauhaus in Germany. The bulk of the material, however, dates from Albers arrival in the United States to teach at Black Mountain College. The largest part of the papers is composed of books, magazines, clippings, and exhibition catalogues, which are either about Albers or which contain his writings or reproductions of his works.

Manuscripts and Archives received some of the papers from Josef Albers in 1960. Material which had been collected by the Art and Architecture Library was added to the papers in 1985. This material, in the form of bound folios of printed works by and about Albers, is arranged together with the materials received from Albers in five sections: Correspondence, Subject files, Exhibition catalogs and reproductions of Albers's work, Writings by Albers, and Memorabilia. Oversized material from these sections has been arranged at the end of the collection. Most of the material is in English but there are many items in German.

The correspondence in the papers, most of which is filed in the section Correspondence, is fragmentary and consists of only occasional exchanges with a number of personal friends. Only the correspondence with Hans and Sophie Arp, Willi Baumeister, Katherine S. Dreier, Lyonel Feininger, Walter Gropius, Wassily Kandinski, and Oskar Schlemmer is more extensive. Many of the letters in Correspondence concern arrangements for Albers's positions at Black Mountain College, Harvard University, and Yale University. A file of congratulatory letters on Albers's Yale appointment is included in the subject file "Yale University" and there is some correspondence relating to Albers's family history in folder 266. The subject file on the Bauhaus also includes correspondence and other documentation concerning Albers's affiliation with and departure from the school.

Subject files also include some material on the life and work of Albers's wife Anni Albers, printed material on Black Mountain College, and Albers's annual reports as head of the Department of Design to the president of Yale University. The vast majority of this section, however, consists of writings about Albers. These files include books, magazines, and newspaper articles in which Albers's life and work are described. These materials are arranged chronologically by publication date.

The two sections Exhibitions catalogs and reproductions of Albers's work and Writings by Albers are very similar in content, both containing printed copies of Albers's works and writings. The section of writings includes articles, poems, and books by Albers. An exhibition catalog or volume honoring Albers, which incorporates statements or poems by Albers's along with reproductions of his work might also be seen as a writing. Since the container listing does not provide an item by item listing for each catalog and article, the reader is cautioned to search both sections to locate specific published items. Each section is arranged chronologically by date of publication. Lists, which were created as contents lists to the portfolios transferred from the Art and Architecture Library, (folder 264) may be helpful in determining the variety and titles of material filed in the two sections.

In addition, the writings section includes draft copies for lectures, speeches, and other writings by Albers. Several of these relate to Black Mountain College and include remarks at Black Mountain College luncheons in New York City and copy for the Black Mountain College catalogs. Printed copies of these catalogs are in the subject files. The exhibitions section includes photographs of some exhibits and announcements and other publicity for exhibits, even if there is no catalog for the exhibit in the file. The files of reproductions of Albers's work include printed copies of Albers's work used in a variety of ways. These include a geometry textbook using a painting as an illustration, a museum appointment calendar of works by several artists, publicity for the sale of Albers's work which includes facsimile reproductions, and the Alberses' Christmas cards (folder 166).

Memorabilia includes citations and awards which Albers received, personal photographs, and family papers. The personal papers document Albers's family in Germany and include copies of several official documents relating to births, deaths, and marriages.


  • 1899-1973


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Interaction of Color (Box 26) must be used under the supervision of a reference archivist.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Josef Albers, 1960, and transfer from the Art and Architecture Library, 1985 and 1989.


13 Linear Feet (30 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence, subject files, printed material, and family memorabilia, which document the personal life and professional career of Josef Albers. The papers contain some material relating to the Bauhaus school but the bulk of the material dates from Albers's arrival in the United States. The largest part of the papers is composed of published material by or about Albers or which contain reproductions of his work.

Biographical / Historical

Josef Albers was born in Bottrop, Germany, on March 19, 1888. He studied art in schools in Berlin, Essen, and Munich before joining the Bauhaus school in 1920. From the completion of his studies in 1923 until the school was closed by the Nazis in 1933, Albers remained at the Bauhaus as a teacher. In 1933 Albers joined the faculty of Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where he remained until 1950 when he accepted an appointment as chairman of the Yale University Department of Design. He retired in 1958 and died on March 25, 1976.

Guide to the Josef Albers Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Diane E. Kaplan and Susan Jenkins
September 1989
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8240 US
(203) 432-1735
(203) 432-7441 (Fax)


Sterling Memorial Library
Room 147
120 High Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours