24 October 2018, The Tablet

Circling the sacred square


Josef Albers

Circling the sacred square

A visitor contemplates a painting from the series Homage to the Square by Josef Albers, on display in a recent survey of the artist at New York’s Guggenheim Museum
Photo: Photo: PA/DPA Christina Horsten

 

On 27 March 1976, the German-American artist, Josef Albers, was buried in the cemetery at Orange, Connecticut, his last home. He had died two days before, in the week of his 88th birthday. As his will decreed, his funeral was held “in all quietness”: there were seven mourners, including his wife, Anni. As directed, too, the burial was conducted “in accordance with the rites of the Roman Catholic Church”, by the dead man’s parish priest.

At Yale, where he taught throughout the 1950s, Albers’ faith had been a source of bemusement. Colleagues recalled him attending Mass daily, one of the few habits he shared with another Catholic, Andy Warhol. Like Warhol, too, he kept this quiet. John Richardson’s words at the funeral of the younger man in 1987 might have been spoken at the older’s a decade earlier: “I’d like to recall a side of his character that he hid from all but his closest friends. His spiritual side. Those of you who knew him in circumstances that were the antithesis of spiritual may be surprised that such a side existed. But exist it did.”

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