An exercise in color theory, Collage by Wolfgang Bauer (b. 1939), from Knoll's Bauer Print Collection, is a pragmatic application of late-1960s polychromatic abandon using a limited palette. With the eye-popping, cut-and-paste effects of Collage, Bauer also reimagined Matisse's cut-outs through Abstract Expressionist and Pop lenses. Under Austrian designer Leo Wollner at the Staatlichen Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart, Bauer absorbed a design sensibility merging modern and contemporary art with functionalism and marketability. Bauer also followed in Wollner's professional footsteps, working primarily in freelance textile design for firms like Form International (which retailed Knoll products in England), Fuggerhaus, Heal Fabrics (which maintained a Stuttgart branch), Inter, Kaufhof AG, Taunus Textildruck, and Weverij de Ploeg, as well as Pausa and Knoll—though other projects included porcelain, flatware, furniture, carpets, and even theater sets.
Bauer's 1970 exhibition at the Design Center Stuttgart, Kunst vom Fliessband (Art from the Assembly Line), focused on his fabrics. In the catalogue, critic Ernst Josef Auer concluded that Bauer succeeded in making aesthetic decisions seem practical and necessary, marrying form and function via purely graphic means. That approach may underlie the success of this first Knoll collection, which remains Bauer's key contribution to design history. Industrial Design magazine named the collection among 1969's "Best Designs," and Decorative Art in Modern Interiors showcased Stones in 1970. That same year, the collection was featured in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry's Best Designs exhibition and won the New York Industrial Award for Design Excellence.
The Bauer Print Collection is widely regarded as having resuscitated Knoll's brand when the company needed it most. By the mid-1960s, Knoll had become constrained by the very aesthetic that had, for twenty years, made them the harbingers of fresh, corporate-minded modernism. Florence Knoll's collaboration with Astrid Sampe at the NK Textilkammare had brought Scandinavian style, and Suzanne Huguenin, head of Knoll's textile division until 1963, had enlisted German printers and designers. Still, the "Knoll look" seemed stagnant. Florence's departure in 1965 marked a turning point. The following year, Robert Cadwallader, director of marketing (and later vice president), promoted the German-born Barbara Rodes—who since 1962 had worked for Knoll's international textile division—to head the International Coordination office. Rodes attracted important designers, including Bauer, Wollner, and Wollner's wife Gretl. Cadwallader also hired Massimo Vignelli, whose advertisements for Bauer's line—in print and on promotional silk scarves, which both featured Collage—further popularized the designs.
Read more in the Cora Ginsburg Modern 2019 catalogue.