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

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  • In Short

    Held in the esteemed collection of Florence Knoll Bassett for decades, Henri Lauren’s La jeune soeur, 1949, encapsulates the timeless vision that has firmly placed Laurens within the pantheon of 20th century sculptors, offering us a masterful take on a theme that is both grounded in the past and resolutely modern. Executed in 1949, it is emblematic of the visual simplicity the artist sought to achieve in the last decade of his life. Created in the wake of World War II, the present work’s kneeling female figure conveys the air of serenity and balance that pervaded the artist’s sculptural output following the war. Executed at the culminating point of Laurens’ sculptural innovation, La jeune soeur marked the very moment when his practice gained wider international acclaim: Laurens was included in the Venice Biennale in both 1948 and 1950, and bestowed a major retrospective at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris in 1951. 

  • An Ode to Matisse



    Laurens’ organic sculptural forms reveal striking parallels to the practice of his close friend Henri Matisse, whose focus on sculpture in the late 1920s set the foundation for the unprecedented economy of line in his late paintings and drawings. The remarkable dynamism that Matisse achieved with bodies in motion as in Dance (I), 1909, and with his cut-outs from the late 1940s and 1950s, Laurens managed to convey in sculpture to a degree that challenged Matisse’s bronzes.

    In La jeune soeur, the female figure gracefully raises both arms to her forehead, mirroring the swerving position of her legs below as her body seemingly twists unto itself. Meant to be viewed in the round, the sculpture gives rise to the illusion of movement, all the while retaining a sense of balance and stability.


    “The most outstanding of [Laurens’] qualities is his ability to reconcile the two opposing imperatives of sculpture:
    steadfastness and movement.” 

    – Bernard Dorival

  • 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 (ca. 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. Photograph: Tony  Vaccaro, 1951.


    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, ca. 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
      Private Collection, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Marlborough Fine Art Limited, Henri Laurens, 1885-1954, Sculpture and Drawings, September - October 1957, no. 30 (another example exhibited)
      New York, Fine Arts Associates, Henri Laurens, Sculpture, April 22 - May 17, 1958, no. 15, n.p. (another example exhibited and illustrated)
      Paris, Grand Palais, Henri Laurens, Exposition de la donation aux Musées Nationaux, May - August 1967, no. 100, n.p. (another example exhibited and illustrated)
      Prague, Národní Galerie, Henri Laurens, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, June 9 - October 31, 1970, no. 95, n.p. (another example exhibited)
      Villeneuve-d'Ascq, Musée d'art moderne de la Communauté Urbaine de Lille, Henri Laurens, Rétrospective, December 12, 1992 - April 12, 1993, no. 143, p. 270 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 231)
      Milwaukee Art Museum, A Century of Small Scale Sculpture from the Milwaukee Art Museum, February 25, 1988 - May 6, 1990, no. 16, p. 29 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 17)

    • Literature

      Werner Hofmann, Henri Laurens, Sculptures, Stuttgart, 1970, p. 219 (another example illustrated, p. 208)

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


La jeune soeur

incised with the artist's monogram and number "HL 3/6" and stamped with the foundry mark "C. VALSUANI CIRE PERDUE" on the base
bronze with dark brown patina
11 3/8 x 3 7/8 x 3 7/8 in. (29 x 10 x 10 cm)
Executed in 1949, this work is number 3 from an edition of 7 numbered 0/6 to 6/6, plus 4 artist's proofs of which one cast is marked "M.N." for the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris.

Quentin Laurens has kindly confirmed that this work is registered in the Galerie Louise Leiris archives.

Full Cataloguing

$80,000 - 120,000 

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