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Josef Albers Quotes on Art & Science

A selection of Josef Albers quotes on art and science:


Every perception of colour is an illusion, we do not see colours as they really are. In our perception they alter one another. 

Good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers.

If one says “Red” (the name of a colour) and there are 50 people listening, it can be expected that there will be 50 reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different. 

Art is revelation instead of information, expression instead of description, creation instead of imitation or repetition. Art is concerned with the HOW, not the WHAT; not with literal content, but with the performance of the factual content. The performance – how it is done – that is the content of art.  


Josef Albers Quotes


I think art parallels life; it is not a report on nature or on intimate disclosure of inner secrets. Colour, in my opinion, behaves like man — in two distinct ways: first in self-realisation and then in the realisation of relationships with others.  

In order to use colour effectively it is necessary to recognise that colour deceives continually.

We never really perceive what colour really is, as it physically is. This fact makes colour the most relative medium in art. 

To design is to plan and to organise, to order, to relate and to control. In short it embraces all means of opposing disorder and accident. Therefore it signifies a human need and qualifies man’s thinking and doing.

Colour deceives continuously.

I prefer to see with closed eyes.

Learn to see and to feel life; that is, cultivate imagination, because there are still marvels in the world, because life is a mystery and always will be. But be aware of it.

The purpose of art is to re-present nature, not represent it.  

Easy-to know that diamonds-are precious, Good-to learn that rubies-have depth, But more-to see that pebbles-are miraculous. 

Colour is like cooking. The cook puts in more or less salt, that’s the difference!

A painter paints because he has no time not to paint.

Abstraction is real, probably more real than nature.

The role of art for me is the visualisation of attitude, of the human attitude towards life, towards the world.  

Art is concerned with the HOW and not the WHAT.

There is no difference between science and art when it comes to creativeness, productiveness, to come to conclusions and to formulations. 

One line plus one line results in many meanings.

As basic rules of a language must be practiced continually, and therefore are never fixed, so exercises toward distinct colour effects never are done or over. New and different cases will be discovered time and again.

Art problems are problems of human relationship.

Instead of art I have taught philosophy. Though technique for me is a big word, I never have taught how to paint. All my doing was to make people to see.

As we do not see squares in nature, I thought that it is man-made. But I have corrected myself. Because squares exist in salt crystals, our daily salt.


Josef Albers quotes


Independent of harmony rules, any colour ‘goes’ or ‘works’ with any other colour, presupposing that their quantities are appropriate.

A thing is never seen as it really is.

Repeated similar experiments with adjacent colours will show that any ground subtracts its own hue from colors which it carries and therefore influences.

I want colour and form to have contradictorily functions.

Therefore art means: you have to believe, to have faith, that is, cultivate vision.  

I start from experience and read. . .always between polarities – loud and not-loud, young and old, spring and winter. If I can make black and white behave together instead of shooting at each other only, I feel proud.

Just as the unmusical ear is not competent to judge music, so it is likewise with pictures, whether they are paintings, drawings or photos. Only a sensitive and trained eye gives us the right to judge.

Simultaneous contrast is not just a curious optical phenomenon – it is the very heart of painting.


Josef Albers Quotes


When we are honest – that’s my saying – if we are honest then we will reveal ourselves. But we do not have to make an effort to be individualistic, different from others.

In my basic courses I have always tried to develop discovery and invention which, in my opinion, are the criteria of creativeness.

It is not so for art in appreciation because art is concerned with human behaviour. And science is concerned with the behaviour of metal or energy. It depends on what the fashion is. Now today it’s energy. It’s the same soul behind it. The same soul, you see.

I do not like to be a prophet. I like better to paint than to predict what the next painters will do. Though I have a feeling that consideration of order is very much in the air.

Apprentice is the beginner – the first years you work in a craft in the European sense you are an apprentice. That takes 3 or 4 years. Then you are a journeyman. You can go from one master to another and learn other tricks and other secrets.

And I started with this: I have not painted at all my childhood. In fact, I never painted. But I helped my father who was a house painter and decorative painter. He made stage sets, he made glass paintings, he made everything.

It’s the only dish I serve my craziness for colour in.

The aim of art is a constant, and a continuous job to reveal visually the attitude of our mentality. And the less we disturb the influence of our mentality the more I believe we come close to the truth.

In Italy the artist is a god. Now if the artist is a god, the scientist is likewise a god.

It was my family that wanted me to be a teacher. That was safe, you see. To be a painter was terrible.

Simultaneous contrast is not just a curious optical phenomenon – it is the very heart of painting. Repeated experiments with adjacent colours will show that any ground subtracts its own hue from the colours which it carries and therefore influences. 

Whether something ‘has colour’ or not is as hard to define verbally as are such questions as, ‘What is music?’ or ‘What is musical?

Josef Albers Prints

View Josef Albers prints available from leading galleries.