Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) was a prolific artist, industrial designer and metalworker whose multiple creative disciplines complemented and informed one another. He was born Arri Bertoia in San Lorenzo, Italy, and moved to the USA in 1930, at just 15, to attend art school. At 22 he was awarded a scholarship to Michigan’s Cranbrook Academy of Arts, the creative incubator that also trained Charles Eames, Florence Knoll and Eero Saarinen, and began making jewellery in the metalwork shop. He later joined Charles Eames in his experiments with molded plywood furniture, then went on to design his solo collection of chairs for Knoll in 1952.
Bertoia’s metalworking background came to the fore when designing the Bertoia Chair Collection. The chairs are built around latticed wirework frames, and include the now-iconic Diamond Chair and Bird Chair. They would become landmark pieces in the development of Mid Century Modern style, and remain in production today. Their unique lines and comfortable, ‘springy’ feel have made Bertoia’s chairs enduring favorites.
Always restless, Bertoia continued to develop his creativity in new directions. Post-Knoll, he went on to create 50 public sculptures, recorded 11 albums of Sonambient music played on tonal sculptures of his own design, and returned to his jewellery design roots shortly before his death in 1978.