Josef Albers in his Orange, Connecticut studio, 1969
Gift of Kenneth Tyler 2002
Photographer: William CRUTCHFIELD

Initially, Albers had been sceptical about using lithography; he believed the process could not match the luminosity that he achieved in his painting series Homage to the Square, which he had begun in 1950. Albers termed this series of paintings (which includes On an early sky of 1964) 'platters to serve color' - where colour combinations interact to effect different 'readings'. To achieve these effects with White Line Squares, a perfect fine white line was created by leaving the white paper exposed without any bleeding of the inks. The series became the visual expression of Albers' thesis:

a white line within a color area instead of as a contour may present a newly discovered effect—when the line is placed within a so-called 'Middle' color, even when the color is very evenly applied, it will make the one color look like two different shades or tints of that color.

When Albers was in his mid 80s, he produced with Tyler the series of colour screenprints, Gray Instrumentation - in which all the inks were printed directly onto the white of the paper, without overlap, to achieve subtle hues and luminosity. Such an exercise required a perfect system of registration in screenprinting, as well as perfect colour matching.

Jane Kinsman

Further information will be added to this site as the National Gallery proceeds with its research and documentation.

Last updated October 2014