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Anni Albers

 (1899 - 1994)
Anni Frieda (Fleischmann) Albers was active/lived in Connecticut, North Carolina / Germany.  Anni Albers is known for textiles-collage, printmaker, designer.

Anni Albers

    AL-berz  speaker-click to hear pronunciation  click to hear

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Anni Albers
Born in Berlin, Germany, Anni Albers, whose birth name was Annelise Fleischmann, became a noted textile weaver, printmaker, designer, and craftsperson, considered by some critics to be one of the premier textile designers of the 20th Century. She described her weavings as "visual resting places" (Worringer) and was unique in her methods because she did not confine herself to pre-planned designs but allowed her creations to evolve through the combining of process and medium or material---in other words, to let the special characteristics of the threads and fibers 'lead the way'. Her output included both pictorial and industrial designs.

As a child, she had art private lessons in her home, and from 1916 to 1919, studied at the Art School of Berlin with Martin Brandenburg. In 1922, she enrolled at the Bauhaus, a design school founded in 1919 in Weimar, Germany, and closed by Adolf Hitler in 1933 as a threat to Nazism. The underlying Bauhaus philosophy was commitment to creativity that combined aesthetics and utilitarianism. To meet curriculum requirements, Albers became a student in the weaving workshop because it seemed the least undesirable among the choices. She absorbed the Bauhaus teachings of abstract styles and the creation of weaving designs by letting process rather than pre-determination lead the way. In America, she was much influenced by the ancient arts of the Americas.

Albers  received her diploma from the Bauhaus in 1930 based on a project for an auditorium in Bernau that utilized materials new to art expression such as cellophane, cotton fabric and chenille.

In 1925, she had married Josef Albers, a fellow student. After earning her degree, she was a Bauhaus instructor and free-lance textile designer. When the Bauhaus closed in 1933, the couple left Germany for America, knowing the danger of persons with Jewish roots such as themselves, although she had been raised in the Protestant faith.

Thanks to an arrangement made by Philip Johnson, New York architect whom they had met in Berlin, the couple were hired as faculty members at the newly established Black Mountain College in Black Mountain, North Carolina. The curriculum philosophy was tied to the Bauhaus in Germany, and the couple remained there from 1933 to 1949. With the title of Assistant Professor, she ran the weaving workshop and emphasized both hand and machine weaving and resisted the common methods of industrial design of pre-planning on paper rather than working initially with fabric.  In other words, she "drew on the loom."  (Heller 15) 

She and her husband moved to New York City in 1949, and she had a solo exhibition of weavings at the Museum of Modern Art. The next year, the couple moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where Josef Albers became Chair of the Art Department at Yale University. For her career, this period was highly productive.  She became a prolific writer, and published two major treatises: Anni Albers: On Designing (1959) and Anni Albers: On Weaving (1965). She also had numerous commissions for pictorial weaving including in 1966 and 1967, a memorial at the Jewish Museum in New York for victims of Nazi concentration camps.

In her later years, she focused primarily on print making, an interest that began in 1963 when she went with her husband to the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in California. Fascinated with the processes of the technology, she returned the next year as an artist-in-residence. In 1967, she did her last weaving, and three years later abandoned her looms all together, giving them away.  As a printmaker, she explored the processes of embossing, silk-screen, lithography and photo-off-set, and much of her enduring reputation is from her excellence as a printmaker.

The first comprehensive retrospective of her work was held during the summer of 2000 at the Jewish Museum in New York.

Jules Heller and Nancy G. Heller, North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century, "Anni Albers" by Paula Wisotzki, pp. 14-15.
Wilhelm Worringer, Art & Auction, August, 2000, p. 113.
Phaidon, Dictionary of Twentieth Century Art, p. 6

Biography from The Johnson Collection
Annelise Elsa Frieda Fleischmann 
A product of Germany’s Bauhaus, Anni Albers brought her inestimable design skills to this country when she and her husband, Josef Albers, joined the faculty of Black Mountain College in 1933. Born Annelise Elsa Frieda Fleischmann in Berlin to well-to-do Jewish parents who had converted to Protestantism, she was educated by tutors until she was thirteen, and then attended the local lyceum. Between 1916 and 1919, she studied painting with Martin Brandenburg, a Post-Impressionist and member of the secessionist group who ran a school for young women. Three years later, she enrolled at the Bauhaus, located in Weimar, and took the required preparatory courses with Johannes Itten, a Swiss color theorist. She initially hoped to specialize in carpentry, metalwork, or mural painting, but was assigned to the weaving workshop because of her gender.

Shortly after her enrollment, Annaliese Fleischmann met Josef Albers who oversaw the glass workshop. Despite their different backgrounds and ages—Josef, eleven years older, was from a modest Catholic family—they were married in 1925. After a honeymoon in Italy, they moved with the Bauhaus to Dessau, where new and larger looms were acquired for the weaving studio. It was here that Anni began to create her distinctive wall hangings, allowing the designs—which combined diverse materials such as silk, jute, metal threads, and cellophane—to evolve organically as she worked. She received her diploma in 1929 on the basis of an innovative wall hanging for an auditorium that consisted of velvet for its acoustical properties interwoven with light-reflecting cellophane.

When the Nazis closed the Bauhaus, the Alberses enthusiastically accepted the invitation to join the fledgling experimental college near Asheville, where they delighted in the mountain scenery. At the time of their arrival in 1933, the campus community consisted of twelve faculty members and twenty-two students. Since Josef’s English language skills were lacking, his wife served as his interpreter, while also teaching weaving. In addition to teaching, Anni wrote articles and contributed an essay on the weaving workshop for the exhibition Bauhaus 1919–1928 at the Museum of Modern Art. In 1944, the noted architect Philip Johnson commissioned Anni Albers to create drapery fabric for the Rockefeller Guesthouse in New York. The resulting panels, which combined cotton chenille, white plastic, and copper foil yarn, shimmered, especially at night. The Alberses left Black Mountain College in 1949, the same year that Johnson organized Anni Albers Textiles for the Museum of Modern Art. The next year, at the invitation of Walter Gropius, a colleague from the Bauhaus, she designed the bedspreads and room dividing curtains for Harvard University’s Graduate Center.

While the Alberses became American citizens in 1939, they nurtured a love of travel. In 1935, they made the first of fourteen visits to Mexico, where Anni found the native textiles inspirational. Mexico enchanted the couple, who proclaimed that “art [was] everywhere” there. They spent the 1940–1941 academic year on a sabbatical leave in New Mexico and Mexico. Following their departure from Black Mountain, the couple continued their extensive travels—to the Yucatan, Chile, and Peru—before settling in 1950 in New Haven, Connecticut, where Josef had taken a position at Yale University.

Anni Albers concentrated her energies during this time on her design work and writing, although she did conduct a seminar course in 1955 for Yale architectural students and taught a three-week class at the Haystack School of Crafts on Deer Isle, Maine. In 1963 she began to experiment with lithography at the Tamarind Institute, a printmaking workshop in Los Angeles; she returned the following year as a visiting fellow. Two years later Wesleyan University Press published her influential book, On Weaving, and in 1967 the Jewish Museum in New York exhibited her six-panel tapestry, Six Prayers, which commemorated victims of the Holocaust. A 1985 retrospective exhibition, "The Woven and Graphic Arts of Anni Albers," celebrated her multiple talents and was shown at the Renwick Gallery in Washington and the Yale University Art Gallery.

She died at the age of ninety-four on May 9, her wedding day. Anni Albers’ work is represented in prestigious international and American public collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Submitted by Holly Watters, Registrar and Gallery Manager, The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina

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About  Anni Albers

Born:  1899 - Berlin, Germany
Died:   1994 - Orange, Connecticut
Known for:  textiles-collage, printmaker, designer