As an Italian, born to a small family in the town of San Lorenzo near Venice, Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) became one of the foremost designers of the 20th Century that established Italy as a place for high style and sophisticated design. He moved to America to join his brother during the war, where he was able to study at prestigious academies and create a name for himself on the international market. A truly creative type, Bertoia was a skilled sculptor and painter. He found his greatest success in marrying the understanding of form from sculpture and careful appreciation of aesthetics from painting into his furniture. In America, Bertoia formed partnerships and relationships with big design names such as Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen and even opened his own jewelry design and metalwork school. Bertoia’s skills as an artist were able to translate into his work as a designer and thus place him as a memorable creator within the canon of 20th Century modern design furniture.
Harry Bertoia attended highschool in Italy before moving to Detroit, Michigan in the USA where he was awarded a scholarship in 1937 to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. It was at the academy the he met the Eameses and Eero Saarinen and was asked to work in jewelry design because of the shortage in metal supplies during the war. He thus pioneered the movement of art-to-wear. He was also a printmaker and was able to send some of his monoprints to the Guggenheim, who kept all 100 of them. His iconic wire-mesh metal furniture was first created in the 1950s and the furniture company Knoll immediately assigned his work as a collection within their range of products. Bertoia also worked on designs with Eero Saarinen, such as the alter of the MIT Chapel. He continued to work in all the various mediums that he enjoyed for the next 25 years of his life. Harry Bertoia died of lung cancer in 1978 but his legacy was organized and heralded as well as continued by his son and his daughter who are both artistic.
Harry Bertoia, Diamond Chairs (circa 1970s) Wool and plastic coated steel, Knoll USA
In 1952, after moving his family to Pennsylvania to work with Knoll, Harry Bertoia first designed his Diamond Chairs. His work with metal came after having experimented with moulded plywood designs for Charles Eames. On his own, Bertoia preferred working with wire-type rods into a mesh-like frame – doing various experiments with seating, until the Diamond Chair was established in 1952. The chair is made of Bertoia’s iconic metal framework that holds the sitter on a platform of interwoven wires. Available in various styles and with different make-ups, the Diamond Chairs within the Eclectica collection are covered fully and cushioned for ultimate seating comfort. The iconic chair is easily recognizable as it is perhaps one of the most famous chairs ever created. The name comes from the shape of the chair and the shapes made from the intersecting wires. The chair is the physical embodiment of Harry Bertoia’s fascination with space between forms and the capacity of air within the creation of solid objects.