Albers & Yale University
At Yale, Josef Albers introduced me to the meaning of visual.
To be able to look at images abstractly without regard for
content, and to see what was happening in terms of color,
form or space. Basic design terminology took on new meaning
for me that had never existed prior to Yale. I learned the
significance of nuance those small but important considerations
that I had not been aware of before Albers. I began the Color
class with Albers and finished the course with Sy Sillman.
I took basic drawing with Albers, and both of these courses
were revelations for me, and had an enduring influence on
my own development.
For anyone with an interest in teaching, Josef Albers was
an exemplary role model. He had enormous experience and insight
into teaching and students. He was the most effective and
inspirational teacher I have encountered in my career. I am
certain it was Albers and not coincidence that led to so many
of his graduates going into teaching. My experiences at Yale
were the foundation for what I was to do as a teacher, and
it prepared me to appreciate at a later date the teaching
of Armin Hofmann.
I was enrolled at Yale, Josef Albers was invited to the Minneapolis
School of Art for several days of meeting with faculty and
giving lectures. He never traveled by air, so he took the
train to Minneapolis. I was chosen to assist him while he
was in Minneapolis. I flew out and picked him up at the train
station. I was his companion, guide and driver while in Minneapolis.
The one event that is still most vivid for me was Albers
meeting with the drawing teachers. They asked him to explain
his philosophy on drawing. Albers clearly outlined his views
and sequencing of a drawing program. The teachers were quite
defensive, and began to challenge Albers opinions. Gustav
Krollman, an elderly Austrian drawing master, was especially
vocal. After a few moments of verbal attacks, Albers would
listen to the comments and then say, Gentlemen prefer
blondes. This infuriated Gustav Krollman. After these
exchanges had gone on for a few minutes, Gustav finally blurted
out, You damn Prussians are all alike!
the meeting was over, Albers wanted a break so we went out
and sat in the park. I asked him what he meant by Gentlemen
prefer blondes. He said that he had fought these battles
thirty years ago and now he had to conserve his energy for
more positive purposes. They had asked for his views and he
had given them. They disagreed indicating that they preferred
something else, so they should do what they preferred and
he would do the same.There was nothing to be gained by argument.
was very Germanic in that he used himself to punish or reward
students. When critiquing painting students it was customary
for him to ask a student what they were trying to do. If the
student responded in terms of color, space or form, Albers
engaged in meaningful discussion with the student. If the
student responded in terms of feelings, or some esoteric rationale,
Albers would throw up his arms and in a loud voice exclaim,
Gott in Himmel! Dont show me your intestines.
He would avoid that student for several weeks. It did not
take students long to learn how they should reply to Albers
several occasions, I would pass Albers on the sidewalk and
speak to him with a good morning or good afternoon. He never
acknowledged that he even knew me. Several of the Graphic
Design students asked Albers if we set up a non-credit painting
class, would he critique us once a week. He agreed to do so.
When the class began, there were about nine of us. In six
weeks, it was down to four who regularly participated. I was
one of the four. The next time I met Albers on campus and
spoke, he gave me a hearty greeting, put his arm around my
shoulder and asked me what all I was doing. A remarkable man.