Josef Albers
Homage to the Square, 1957

From 1949 until his death in 1976, Josef Albers created a series of paintings titled Homage to the Square. These works explore the artist’s endless fascination with the discrepancy between how colors look when seen one at a time and how they appear in different combinations. In his writings on color theory, Albers noted that the way we experience color varies based on our individual personalities and on factors such as hue, dimension, and placement.

Albers chose the square for its neutrality: he felt that such a common shape would not distract viewers from their experience of color. To create a “pure” experience, he applied his pigments directly from the tubes in which they came, spreading them in thin layers onto the surface of the canvas.

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Homage to the Square
Artist name
Josef Albers
Date created
oil on masonite
23 7/8 in. × 23 7/8 in. (60.64 cm × 60.64 cm)
Date acquired
Collection SFMOMA
Gift of Anni Albers and the Josef Albers Foundation
© The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Permanent URL
Artwork status
On view on floor 2 as part of Open Ended: SFMOMA's Collection, 1900 to Now

Audio Stories

Why did Albers make hundreds of Homages?

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NARRATOR: Josef Albers made more than a thousand arrangements like the ones you see here. Four differently colored squares, one nested inside of another.  Each of these works is part of a twenty-five year-long experiment he called “Homage to the Square.” 


JOSEPH ALBERS: They have a square within a square. I think one form demands, if you really deal with it, 1000 performances. 

SFX: Music  


ALBERS: I am interested in the interaction of color – that means, how does one change the other color? I want to have my colors act.  


SFX: Music 


ALBERS: I believe that art looks at us. You see, this, that has an eye. That I tried to do by very clean colors. I have hundreds of tones, but I do not mix them myself. They come out of the tube and I smear them on like butter on my pumpernickel.   


SFX: Music  


ALBERS: Color is always deceiving us. We almost never see what a color really is, what a color physically is.  There is a discrepancy between the physical fact somewhere in front of us, and the psychic effect. 

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Other Works by Josef Albers

See other works by Josef Albers

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