Annie Albers, born in Berlin, was a master weaver and printmaker, who greatly influenced the development of fiber art in the U.S. She was an incisive author whose seminal books “On Designing” 1961 and “On Weaving” 1965 helped establish Design History as a serious area of academic study. One of the works Albers chose to illustrate in “On Weaving” was “Dark River,” a majestic work done by Lenore Tawney.
In 1922, Albers joined the Bauhaus School and like other women of her day was kept from becoming a painter. She was allowed into the weaving program. She heard Paul Klee’s lecture about drawing, which involved “taking a line for a walk.” She decided to channel his words to her new medium. “I thought . . . I will take thread everywhere I can.” She therefore enlisted her extraordinary talents into revolutionizing woven fabrics. Her radical 1920s textiles – both hand-loomed abstract tapestries and factory-produced functional fabrics – became one of the hallmarks of German Bauhaus designs.
Annie Albers and her husband Josef Albers emigrated to the United States after the Nazi party in 1932 closed the Bauhaus School in Dessau where they were both teaching. She and her husband taught at Black Mountain College in North Carolina from 1933 to 1949. Starting in 1935 they made 13 trips to Mexico over a period of 30 years. On one of these trips they studied pre-Columbian pyramids, palace ruins, and stone mosaics called ‘grecas’. Grecas were found on the walls of an ancient Zapotec archaeological site. Their complex geometric patterns inspired Albers’ weaving and design works.
In 1949, Albers became the first designer to have a one-person exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This exhibit toured for almost two years, establishing her as one of the most important designers of the day. In the 1960s, Albers worked with lithography and screen printing. She had major exhibitions in Germany and a retrospective at Guggenheim Bilbao. Recently she had a retrospective at Tate Modern in London.
She has received honorary doctorates and lifetime achievement awards. Her austerely elegant fabrics, weavings, screen printings, and jewelry are still reverberating in art, fashion, and interior design today