Harry Bertoia (March 10, 1915 – November 6, 1978)
Harry Bertoia was an Italian born American Artist and Furniture Designer known for his sculptural forms. Not only a great designer in his own right he made significant contributions in helping the Eameses manufacture some of their furniture designs.
After Emigrating to America at age 15, Bertoia studied art and design and learned the skill of handmade jewellery making. In 1936 he attended the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts. The following year in 1937 he received a scholarship to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where he encountered Charles and Ray Eames and Florence Knoll. In 1939, Eliel Saarinen, director of the art community, asked Bertoia, to stay on at the academy to re-open the metalworking shop. He shared jewellery with his friends and made wedding rings for Ray Eames amongst others.
Bertoia opened his own metal workshop at Cranbrook where he taught jewellery design and metal work. In 1946 he moved to California to help Charles Eames develop methods of laminating and bending plywood. Bertoia’s contributions to the famous Eames chairs were crucial if not well known. Bertoia worked there until 1950 when he 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 his most famous work the ‘Diamond chair‘.
Today Bertoia is remembered through his chairs but he was certainly a well rounded individual. Knoll historian Brian Lutz once said “Bertoia’s paintings were better than his sculptures. And his sculptures were better than his furniture. And his furniture was absolutely brilliant.”