Annelise Albers (née Fleischmann) (June 12, 1899 – May 9, 1994) was a German-American textile artist and printmaker. She is perhaps the best known textile artist of the 20th century.
Albers was born Annelise Else Frieda Fleischmann in Berlin. Her mother was from an aristocratic family in the publishing industry and her father was a furnituremaker. Even in her childhood, she was intrigued by art and the visual world. She painted during her youth and studied under an impressionist from 1916 to 1919, but was very discouraged from continuing after a meeting with artist Oskar Kokoschka, who upon seeing a portrait of hers asked her sharply "Why do you paint?" She eventually decided to attend art school, even though the challenges for art students were often great and the living conditions harsh. Such a lifestyle sharply contrasted the affluent and comfortable living that she had been used to. Albers attended the Kunstgewerbeschule in Hamburg for only two months in 1920, though eventually made her way to the Bauhaus at Weimar in April 1922.
At Walter Gropius's Bauhaus she began her first year under Georg Muche and then Johannes Itten. Women were barred from certain disciplines taught at the school, especially architecture, and during her second year, unable to get into a glass workshop with future husband Josef Albers, Anni Albers deferred reluctantly to weaving. With her instructor Gunta Stölzl, however, Albers soon learned to love weaving's tactile construction challenges.
In 1925 Anni and Josef Albers, the latter having rapidly become a "Junior Master" at the Bauhaus, were married. The school moved to Dessau that year, and a new focus on production rather than craft at the Bauhaus prompted Albers to develop many functionally unique textiles combining properties of light reflection, sound absorption, durability, and minimized wrinkling and warping tendencies. She had several of her designs published and received contracts for wall hangings. For a time Albers was a student of Paul Klee, and after Gropius left Dessau in 1928 Josef and Anni Albers moved into the teaching quarters next to both the Klees and the Kandinskys. During this times the Alberses began their lifelong habit of travelling extensively, first through Italy, Spain, and to the Canaries.
The Bauhaus at Dessau was closed in 1932 under pressure from the Nazi party and moved briefly to Berlin, permanently closing a year later in August 1933. The Alberses were invited by Philip Johnson to teach at the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina, arriving stateside in November 1933. Both taught at Black Mountain until 1949. During these years Anni Albers's weavings were shown throughout the US and she published many articles on textiles and design, this activity culminating in her 1949 show at the Museum of Modern Art. The first of its kind for a texile artist at MoMA, the show began in the fall and then toured the US from 1951 until 1953, establishing Albers as the most well-known weaver of the day. During these years the Alberses also made many trips to Mexico and throughout the Americas, becoming avid collectors of pre-Columbian artwork.
After leaving Black Mountain in 1949, Josef Albers became the chair of the design department at Yale, and Anni moved with him to Connecticut, for the first time working from her home. After being commissioned by Gropius to design a variety of bedspreads and other textiles for Harvard, and following the MoMA exhibition, Albers spent the 1950s working on mass-producible fabric patterns, creating the majority of her "pictorial" weavings, and publishing a half-dozen articles and a collection of her writings, On Designing. In 1963, while at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles with Josef for a lecture of his, Albers was invited to try her hand at printmaking. She grew immediately fond of the technique, and thereafter gave up most of her time to lithography and screen printing. She was invited back as a fellow to Tamarind in 1964, wrote an article for Britannica in 1963, and then expanded on it for her second book, On Weaving, published in 1965.
Josef Albers died in 1976. Anni had two major exhibitions in Germany the same year, and a handful of exhibitions of her textile and print work over the next two decades, receiving a half-dozen honorary doctorates and lifetime achievement awards during this time as well, including the second American Craft Council Gold Medal for "uncompromising excellence" in 1980. She continued to travel to Latin America and Europe, to make prints, and to lecture until her death on May 9, 1994, in Connecticut.
In 1971, the Albers founded the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, a not-for-profit organization they hoped would further "the revelation and evocation of vision through art." Today, this organization not only serves as the office Estate of both Josef Albers and Anni Albers, but also supports exhibitions and publications focused on Albers works. The official Foundation building is located in Bethany, Connecticut and "includes a central research and archival storage center to accommodate the Foundation's art collections, library and archives, and offices, as well as residence studios for visiting artists." The U.S. copyright representative for the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation is the Artists Rights Society. The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation is represented for unique work by The Pace Gallery, New York and Waddington Galleries, London and for editioned work by Alan Cristea Gallery, London.
Albers worked primarily in textiles and, late in life, as a printmaker. She produced numerous designs in ink washes for her textiles, and occasionally experimented with jewelry. Her woven works include many wall hangings, curtains and bedspreads, mounted "pictorial" images, and mass-produced yard material. Her weavings are often constructed of both traditional and industrial materials, not hesitating to combine jute, paper, and cellophane, for instance, to startlingly sublime effect.