Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Italian sculptor, university lecturer and furniture designer Harry Bertoia (1915 – 1978) experimented bending metal rods into practical art producing a revered collection of seating. Bertoia was an inventor of form and an enricher of furniture design with his introduction of a new material: he turned industrial wire rods into a design icon. Educated at Detroit Technical High School, the Detroit School of Arts and Crafts and Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Bertoia taught metal crafts at Cranbrook. He worked with Charles Eames to develop his signature molded plywood chairs. Eero Saarinen commissioned him to design a metal sculptured screen for the General Motors Technical Center in Detroit. His awards include the craftsmanship medal from the American Institute of Architects, as well as AIA’s Gold Medal.
In the mid-50's his chairs produced by Knoll sold so well, that the royalties Bertoia received for them allowed him to devote himself exclusively to sculpture. In 1957 he was a fellow at the Graham Foundation in Chicago. The sculptural work that he produced on his own explored the ways in which metal could be manipulated to produce sound. By stretching and bending the metal, he made it respond to wind or to touch, creating different tones. He performed with the pieces in a number of concerts and even produced a series of nine albums, all entitled "Sonambient", of the music made by his art, manipulated by his hands along with the elements of nature. Bertoia’s steel wire rod furniture collection, appropriately referred to as the “Bertoia Collection” is still produced by Knoll. His vintage furniture designs and sculptures are sold at fine dealers and auction houses.

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images: (click on images to enlarge)
L-R: Asymmetrical chaise, Side chair, Barstool, Diamond lounge - white powder-coat finish suitable for outdoors (top)
Bird lounge chair, upholstered (2nd)
Side chairs w/seat pads (3rd)
Diamond lounge chair, upholstered (4th)
Sonambient Sculpture c1970 H26 x W36 x D6 (bottom)

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