Born in the small Italian village of San Lorenzo in 1915, Bertoia’s talents were recognised early on as the local brides would ask him to design their wedding day linen embroidery patterns. At the age of 15, Harry (named Arri at birth; his name often morphed into the nickname Arieto, meaning “Little Harry” in Italian) made the move to Detroit Michigan in a move that would set in motion a life at the cutting edge of great design.
After studying art and design at Cass Technical High School where he developed an interest and skills in handmade jewellery making, Bertoia received a scholarship to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where he mixed with pioneer of modern architecture, Walter Gropius and the ‘Father of modern Philadelphia,’ Edmund Bacon. It was here that he was asked to take over the metal workshop tutorials and teach jewellery design and metal work.
At the turn of the decade in 1950, Bertoia was invited to move to Pennsylvania to work with Hans and Florence Knoll, During this period he designed five wire pieces that became known as the Bertoia Collection for Knoll. Among these was the famous ‘Diamond Chair’ that featured a fluid and sculptural form made from a welded latticework of steel.
In Bertoia's own words, "If you look at these chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture. Space passes right through them."
The chairs were produced with varying degrees of upholstery over their light grid-work, and were handmade initially because a suitable mass production process could not be found. In 2005 Bertoia's asymmetrical chaise lounge was introduced at the Milan Furniture Fair and proved a huge success, selling out almost immediately.
Bertoia would purposely not sign or title his artworks, believing that they were part of the universe that God designed. His work can be found in a number of museums around America including the Brooklyn Museum (New York City), the Nasher Sculpture Center (Dallas) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington D.C)
Utility have been proud stockists of KNOLL products including the Harry Bertoia collection for over 10 years and we’re excited to announce that the newly released Bertoia Plastic Side Chair will be available to order online very shortly.
What’s your favourite Harry Bertoia design?