Henri Laurens - 20th c. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Thursday, July 2, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Making Modern: Florence Knoll Bassett


    A true visionary, Florence Knoll Bassett (1917-2019) left behind a remarkable legacy as both trailblazing entrepreneur, pioneering designer, architect and art collector. As the design force of Knoll, Florence radically transformed the field of “interior design” for the new modern era – the signature “Knoll” look quickly coming to epitomize mid-20th century aesthetic that remains as relevant today as back then.

    Florence Knoll during a meeting of the Knoll Planning Unit, circa 1955. Courtesy Knoll Archive.


    Having studied under some of the greatest 20th century architects such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer, Florence began her career in New York in the 1940s. Together with Hans Knoll, the founder of Knoll Associates whom she later married, she helped grow a nascent further company into the largest and most prestigious high-end design firm of its kind in the world. 

     Hans and Florence Knoll, 1951. Photograph by Tony  Vaccaro.


    As partner, co-owner, and eventually president of the company following Hans Knoll’s passing in 1955, Florence became the single most-powerful figure in the field of modern design. As Director of the Knoll Planning Unit, she revolutionized the American corporate environment in the 1950s and 1960s with her sleek, open-office “total designs” and collaborated with some of the best post-war designers in creating some of the most iconic and timeless pieces of design – many of which are still used in contemporary interior.

    “I am not a decorator.”
    – Florence Knoll Bassett

    Florence Knoll and Eero Saarinen developing the Pedestal Collection, circa 1955. Courtesy Knoll Archive.

    Influenced by the Bauhaus, she pursued a modernist philosophy of merging art, architecture and design in creating – not merely decorating – spaces. Her showrooms were notably one of the first to incorporate works of art, which she hand selected and often added to her own collection that she built with a remarkable curatorial eye.

    Showroom at 575 Madison Avenue, New York. Courtesy Knoll Archive.

    At the same time as Florence developed a particular appreciation for the work of modern master Paul Klee from her mentor Mies van der Rohe, she was also an ardent supporter of the art of her time and forged close relationships with such stalwarts as Isamu Noguchi and Josef Albers. 

    Florence retired from Knoll in 1965 and eventually settled in Miami after marrying bank executive Harry Hood Bassett, with whom she continued to build an exceptional collection - one that powerfully speaks to the pioneering vision and timeless modern aesthetic with which she forever revolutionized the field of modern design.
    • Provenance

      Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris
      St. Armands Gallery, Inc., Sarasota (by 1976)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

Making Modern: Art & Design from the Collection of Florence Knoll Bassett


Femme couchée

signed with the artist's monogram "HL." lower right
graphite and watercolor on handmade paper
11 7/8 x 20 5/8 in. (30.2 x 52.5 cm)
Executed in 1949.

Quentin Laurens has kindly confirmed that this work is registered in the Studio archives.

Full Cataloguing

$20,000 - 30,000 

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th c. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 2 July 2020