Harry Bertoia (1915 – 1978)

“The urge for good design is the same as the urge to go on living.” – Harry Bertoia, Italian-born American artist, sculptor, and modern furniture designer.

Harry Bertoia
Harry Bertoia

image source: https://bebob.eu/en/designer/bertoia-harry/#tab_informatie

About his life

Harry Bertoiaoriginal name Arri Bertoia (born March 10, 1915, San Lorenzo, Udine, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy—died November 6, 1978, Barto, Pennsylvania, U.S.), was an Italian-born American sculptor, printmaker, jewelry and furniture designer best known for his monumental architectural sculptures and classic Bertoia Diamond chair.

What are his most famous creations?


Harry Bertoia started making monoprints when in Cranbrook, developing a very personal method, and continued doing so all along his life. As a matter of fact monotypes were often for him a way to explore and put down on paper the original idea behind a new object or sculpture.

Harry Bertoia, monoprint.
Harry Bertoia, monoprint

image source: http://harrybertoia.org/about-bertoia-monotypes/


In 1950, Knoll gave Bertoia the possibility to develop his artistic concepts in full freedom. Out of this challenge emerged a range of chairs and other furniture “mostly made of air” as Bertoia described them. The Knoll collection of “wire chairs” was to immediately become an icon of mid-century design, which is still in production to this day.

Bird Chair, Harry Bertoia 1952.
Bird Chair, Harry Bertoia 1952

image source: https://www.knoll.com/product/bertoia-bird-chair

Harry Bertoia for Knoll.
Harry Bertoia for Knoll

image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/5870fdeb-c799-49fe-ba02-97e5625a2b07 by Design Trust for Public Space


Bertoia’s “Sunburst Sculpture” owned by the Joslyn Art Museum was originally installed in the Joslyn’s Fountain Court. It is now located in the lobby of the Milton R. Abrahams Branch of the Omaha Public Library. Lord Palumbo owns several Bertoia works which are on display at Kentuck Knob. Bertoia’s “Sounding Sculpture” can be found in the plaza of The Aon Center, Chicago’s third tallest building. Another “Sounding Sculpture“, considerably smaller than the one mentioned above, is featured in the Rose Terrace of the Chicago Botanic Garden, and a third very similar to the piece in Chicago called “Sounding Piece” was until 2003 on display at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Harry Bertoia - Sound Sculpture.
Harry Bertoia – Sound Sculpture

image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/2a308b6c-152c-4ca9-bfc4-e54c3844e19d by Os2014

Sounding Sculptures, Chicago.
Henry Bertoia, Sounding Sculptures, Chicago

image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/a4effa51-dd40-4f83-b722-7d4ef3736eae by Sharon Mollerus

Sunburst Sculpture by Harry Bertoia.
Sunburst Sculpture (Harry Bertoia)

image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/0e6377ad-dd2a-4134-8b33-f19a0ec6b81b by okeefew

What are Bertoia’s style main features ?

Harry Bertoia was a metal worker ahead of his time who crossed boundaries daily. His jewelry is sculpture you can wear, the monotypes a window into the universe, the chairs are sensual and sculptural and his sculptures range from welded to spill-cast to hand-shaped. His gentle nature was expressed in delicate fine wire work while his superhuman strength was needed to handle the massive architectural commissions.

Bertoia Diamond Chair
Bertoia Diamond Chair
Bertoia Diamond Chair
Bertoia Diamond Chair

images source: https://www.knoll.com/product/bertoia-diamond-chair-outdoor

He designed the ever-popular Diamond chair, crafted over 50 public sculptures, and created the Sonambient sounding sculptures. From biomorphic jewelry to 4-ton fountains, from children’s chairs to the asymmetric chaise, from singing rods to thunderous 10’ gongs, from color field graphics to layered monographics,  this prolific man preferred not to title his art because it came from “the great Oneness,” and needed no man’s identification or name to have its effect.

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