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Harry Bertoia Art

American, Italian, 1915-1978

Sculptor, furniture and jewelry designer, graphic artist and metalsmith, Harry Bertoia was one of the great cross-disciplinarians of 20th-century art and design and a central figure in American mid-century modernism. Among furniture aficionados, Bertoia is known for his chairs such as the wire-lattice Diamond chair (and its variants such as the tall-backed Bird chair) designed for Knoll Inc. and first released in 1952.

As an artist, he is revered for a style that was his alone. Bertoia’s metal sculptures are by turns expressive and austere, powerful and subtle, intimate in scale and monumental. All embody a tension between the intricacy and precision of Bertoia’s forms and the raw strength of his materials: steel, brass, bronze and copper.

Fortune seemed to guide Bertoia’s artistic development. Born in northeastern Italy, Bertoia immigrated to the United States at age 15, joining an older brother in Detroit. He studied drawing and metalworking in the gifted student program at Cass Technical High School. Recognition led to awards that culminated, in 1937, in a teaching scholarship to attend the Cranbrook Academy of Art in suburban Bloomfield Hills, one of the great crucibles of modernism in America

At Cranbrook, Bertoia made friendships — with architect Eero Saarinen, designers Charles and Ray Eames and Florence Schust Knoll and others — that shaped the course of his life. He taught metalworking at the school, and when materials rationing during World War II limited the availability of metals, Bertoia focused on jewelry design. He also experimented with monotype printmaking, and 19 of his earliest efforts were bought by the Guggenheim Museum.

In 1943, he left Cranbrook to work in California with the Eameses, helping them develop their now-famed plywood furniture. (Bertoia received scant credit.) Late in that decade, Florence and Hans Knoll persuaded him to move east and join Knoll Inc. His chairs became and remain perennial bestsellers. Royalties allowed Bertoia to devote himself full-time to metal sculpture, a medium he began to explore in earnest in 1947.

By the early 1950s Bertoia was receiving commissions for large-scale works from architects — the first came via Saarinen — as he refined his aesthetic vocabulary into two distinct skeins. One comprises his “sounding sculptures” — gongs and “Sonambient” groupings of rods that strike together and chime when touched by hand or by the wind. The other genre encompasses Bertoia’s naturalistic works: abstract sculptures that suggest bushes, flower petals, leaves, dandelions or sprays of grass. 

As you will see on these pages, Harry Bertoia was truly unique; his art and designs manifest a wholly singular combination of delicacy and strength.

Find vintage Harry Bertoia sculptures, armchairs, benches and other furniture and art on 1stDibs.

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Artist: Harry Bertoia
Bertoia — Mid-Century Visionary Abstraction, Unique
By Harry Bertoia
Located in Myrtle Beach, SC
Harry Bertoia, Untitled (Abstraction), monotype, c. 1960, a unique impression. Signed 'HB' in pencil, lower right sheet corner, verso. Inscribed '1852' (the artist’s inventory number) in pencil, lower right sheet corner, recto. A superb, painterly impression, on cream wove Japan paper, the full sheet, in excellent condition. Unmatted, unframed. Sheet size 12 x 39 inches (300 x 990 mm). Provenance: Val Bertoia; Private Collection; Rago Auctions, Lambertville, NJ. Literature: 'Harry Bertoia: Monoprints,' Nancy N. Schiffer, Schiffer Publishing LTD, 2011; pg. 253. This work is included in the Harry Bertoia Foundation digital resource, Harry Bertoia Catalogue Raisonné, number TD.MO.1584. ABOUT THE ARTIST Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) was a visionary Italian-American artist, sculptor, and designer. Born in San Lorenzo, Italy, Bertoia immigrated to the United States with his family at fifteen, settling in Detroit, Michigan. From an early age, Bertoia demonstrated a keen interest in art and design, studying painting and drawing at the Cass Technical High School in Detroit. Later, he attended the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where he studied under renowned designers Eliel Saarinen and Charles Eames. At Cranbrook, Bertoia first began to explore the possibilities of working with metal, a medium that would come to define his artistic career. In the 1940s, Bertoia moved to California to work for Charles and Ray Eames, contributing to the development of innovative molded plywood furniture. However, his experimentation with metal wire sculpture would ultimately catapult him to international acclaim. Bertoia's iconic "Sonambient" sculptures, consisting of delicate metal rods arranged in various configurations, created ethereal sounds when touched or moved, transforming the act of sculpture into a multisensory experience. Bertoia's talent and innovation caught the attention of Florence Knoll, the founder of Knoll Associates, a leading furniture design company. In 1950, Bertoia began collaborating with Knoll, producing a series of iconic wire chairs that became emblematic of mid-century modern design. His "Diamond Chair," with its geometric form and airy construction, remains a classic of modern furniture design. Bertoia continued to explore sculpture as a means of artistic expression, experimenting with new forms and materials. His work was characterized by organicism and fluidity, with forms that evoked natural phenomena such as waves, leaves, and clouds. A decade before Harry Bertoia began creating three-dimensional sculpture, he dedicated his creative efforts to producing experimental prints at the Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, pursuing a passion that would continue for the rest of his life. With these spontaneous works, he worked intuitively, testing different tools and techniques to achieve his desired effects. Rather than using a traditional mechanical pressing process, he would apply ink to a glass or smooth Masonite plate with a sheet of paper laid directly on top. Then, tools such as brayers, dog hair brushes, styluses, and different parts of his hands were employed to draw or “press” the images on the back of the sheet. Rice paper was typically used due to its semi-translucent nature, offering Bertoia limited visibility of the effects of his experimentation, but ultimately, the unpredictable nature of the process was an integral aspect of the results, which never ceased to delight him. Each work was a singular composition with abstract imagery ranging from linear, structural compositions to fantastic surrealistic forms to poetic tonal landscapes. He received little input from other artists, developing his unique vision with rare purity and a deep personal resonance. From his first year of printmaking in 1940, Bertoia quickly amassed an extensive collection of unique works. The compositions were strongly tied to the non-objective movement, which, while popular in Europe, was still in its nascent stages in the US. There were few proponents of this new art form to be found in the 1940s, and it was Hilla Rebay, then Director of the Guggenheim Museum of Non-Objective Art, who gave Bertoia the encouragement and promotion he needed. In 1943, Bertoia sent approximately 100 monotypes to Rebay for review. After receiving the prints, she responded with a surprising offer to buy them all. Rebay then began including them in the museum’s exhibitions. The Guggenheim shows succeeded in putting Bertoia’s name out into the world. He began exhibiting his works regularly at the Neierndorf Gallery in New York and was provided a stipend to ensure a steady supply of prints until Karl Neierndorf died in 1947. By the 1950s...
Category

1960s American Modern Harry Bertoia Art

Materials

Monotype

Untitled (Wheat)
By Harry Bertoia
Located in Greenwich, CT
Bertoia's "wheat" pieces are rare and a joy. These works do not make sound when one touches the tines and is meant less to be touched than to convey an organic feel of sunlight rippling through stalks of golden wheat. This is a great size for a table. An unusual composition for Bertoia, Untitled (Wheat) combines elements with the artist’s more familiar Tonals with those of the Sprays. Typical of the artist’s œuvre however is the pleasant sensation of touch when stroking the ends of the wires. Bertoia’s spray sculptures...
Category

1960s Abstract Harry Bertoia Art

Materials

Brass, Steel

Untitled 2, Monoprint by Herry Bertoia
By Harry Bertoia
Located in Long Island City, NY
Artist: Harry Bertoia Title: Untitled 2 Year: circa 1945 Medium: Monoprint on Rice Paper Paper Size: 9 x 11 inches Frame: 14.5 x 17.5 inches
Category

Mid-20th Century Abstract Harry Bertoia Art

Materials

Monoprint

Vertial Sculpture
By Harry Bertoia
Located in Lambertville, NJ
Jim’s of Lambertville is proud to offer this artwork by: Harry Bertoia (1915 – 1978) Artist, sound art sculptor, and furniture designer, Harry Bertoia, was born in Italy in 1915 be...
Category

20th Century Abstract Harry Bertoia Art

Materials

Paper, Monoprint

Untitled (Suspended Willow)
By Harry Bertoia
Located in Palm Desert, CA
A sculpture by Harry Bertoia. "Untitled (Suspended Willow)" is an abstract, steel and steel wire sculpture by Post War artist Harry Bertoia. The willow form is one of Harry Bertoia's...
Category

1960s Post-War Harry Bertoia Art

Materials

Steel, Wire

Three Sound Sculpture
By Harry Bertoia
Located in Lambertville, NJ
Jim’s of Lambertville is proud to offer this artwork by: Harry Bertoia (1915 – 1978) Artist, sound art sculptor, and furniture designer, Harry Bertoia, was born in Italy in 1915 before immigrating to America in 1930. In 1936, he attended the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts before moving to study at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield, Michigan, where he would later teach and establish a metalworking department. During this early artistic period, he experimented with jewelry forms, exploring creative concepts that would later emerge in his sculptures. In 1943, he relocated to Venice, California, along with esteemed artist-designer couple Charles and Ray Eames, to participate in war efforts until 1946. During his first year in California, he began attending a welding class at Santa Monica City College. In 1947, he moved to La Jolla to work in the publications department of Point Loma Naval Electronics Laboratory creating training manuals for equipment operators. During this time, he continued making jewelry and monoprints and began his first experiments with metal sculpture. In 1949, he moved to Barto, Pennsylvania to work alongside Hans and Florence Knoll at Knoll Associates, a design company and furniture manufacturer. From then on, he became a prolific architectural sculptor. While at Knoll Associates, he created the famous wire Bertoia Collection. Among the designs for this collection was his Diamond Chair, which quickly became an iconic and commercially successful model. His first sculpture exhibition was in 1951 at the Knoll Showroom in New York. Besides his work in jewelry making and furniture design, during the 1960s, Bertoia began to devote himself to the production of sound sculptures...
Category

20th Century Abstract Harry Bertoia Art

Materials

Monoprint

Spray
By Harry Bertoia
Located in Miami, FL
TECHNICAL INFORMATION Harry Bertoia Spray 1979 (year completed) Steel wire, bronze 37 h x 13 dia in. Sold with a certificate of authenticity from the Harry Bertoia Foundation and a...
Category

1970s Abstract Harry Bertoia Art

Materials

Bronze, Steel

"Spray"
By Harry Bertoia
Located in Lambertville, NJ
A sculptor of kinetic objects, many of them with mazes of thin rods that appear brush like, Harry Bertoia was born in San Lorenzo, Italy, and came to America in 1930. In 1936, he stu...
Category

20th Century Abstract Harry Bertoia Art

Materials

Steel

untitled 1, Framed Abstract Monoprint by Harry Bertoia
By Harry Bertoia
Located in Long Island City, NY
Artist: Harry Bertoia Title: Untitled 1 Year: circa 1945 Medium: Monoprint on Rice Paper Paper Size: 9 x 11 inches Frame: 14.5 x 17.5 inches
Category

Mid-20th Century Abstract Harry Bertoia Art

Materials

Monoprint

Untitled 3, Modern Abstract Monotype by Harry Bertoia
By Harry Bertoia
Located in Long Island City, NY
Artist: Harry Bertoia Title: Untitled 3 Year: circa 1945 Medium: Monoprint on Rice Paper Paper Size: 9 x 11 inches Frame: 14.5 x 17.5 inches
Category

1940s Abstract Harry Bertoia Art

Materials

Monoprint

Untitled 4, Modern Abstract Monotype by Harry Beroia
By Harry Bertoia
Located in Long Island City, NY
Artist: Harry Bertoia Title: Untitled 4 Year: circa 1945 Medium: Monoprint on Rice Paper Paper Size: 9 x 11 inches Frame: 14.5 x 17.5 inches
Category

1940s Abstract Harry Bertoia Art

Materials

Monoprint

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Harry Bertoia (1915-1978)
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Harry Bertoia art for sale on 1stDibs.

Find a wide variety of authentic Harry Bertoia art available for sale on 1stDibs. You can also browse by medium to find art by Harry Bertoia in metal, steel, brass and more. Much of the original work by this artist or collective was created during the 20th century and is mostly associated with the post-war style. Not every interior allows for large Harry Bertoia art, so small editions measuring 11 inches across are available. Customers who are interested in this artist might also find the work of Émile Gilioli, Sayed Haider Raza, and Val Bertoia. Harry Bertoia art prices can differ depending upon medium, time period and other attributes. On 1stDibs, the price for these items starts at $40,000 and tops out at $105,000, while the average work can sell for $72,500.

Artists Similar to Harry Bertoia

Questions About Harry Bertoia Art
  • 1stDibs ExpertApril 5, 2022
    Whether or not a Harry Bertoia chair is comfortable really comes down to a matter of personal preference, but there are a lot of positive reviews pertaining to how comfortable the Italian-born American designer’s seating is. Among furniture aficionados he is known for the wire-lattice Diamond chair (and its variants such as the tall-backed Bird chair) designed for Knoll Inc. and first released in 1952. Shop a selection of Bertoia chairs from some of the world’s top dealers on 1stDibs.

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