Midcentury Chrome Bar Stools by Harry Bertoia for Knoll
About the Item
- Dimensions:Height: 41 in (104.14 cm)Width: 21.75 in (55.25 cm)Depth: 22 in (55.88 cm)Seat Height: 29 in (73.66 cm)
- Style:Mid-Century Modern (Of the Period)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Place of Origin:
- Date of Manufacture:2000s
- Seller Location:BROOKLYN, NY
- Reference Number:1stDibs: LU1793225616742
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 modernism. 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. As an artist, Bertoia 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. There, 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 Cranbrook, 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.
As a company that produced many of the most famous and iconic furniture designs of the 20th century, Knoll was a chief influence in the rise of modern design in the United States. Led by Florence Knoll, the firm would draw stellar talents such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Eero Saarinen into its compass. Their work would help change the face of the American home and office.
The company was formed in 1938 by the German immigrant Hans Knoll. He first worked with his fellow ex-pat, the Danish designer Jens Risom, who created furniture with flowing lines made of wood. While Risom served in World War II, in 1943 Knoll met his future wife, Florence Schust. She had studied and worked with eminent emigré leaders of the Bauhaus, including Mies, Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. She won Knoll over with Bauhaus notions of industrial arts, and an aesthetic that featured flat and tubular metal frames and angular forms. When Hans died in a car crash in 1955, Florence Knoll was appointed head of the company. It was as much through her holistic approach to design — a core division of the firm was dedicated to planning office systems — as Knoll's mid-century modern furnishings themselves that she brought about the sleek and efficient transformation of the American workplace.
Today, classic Knoll furnishings remain staples of modern design collections and decor. A history of modern design is written in pieces such as the elegant Barcelona chair — created by Mies and Lilly Reich — Saarinen’s pedestal Tulip chair, Breuer’s tubular steel Wassily lounge chair and the grid-patterned Diamond chair by Harry Bertoia.
As you can see from the collection of these designs and other vintage Knoll dining chairs, sofas and tables on 1stDibs, this manufacturer's offerings have become timeless emblems of the progressive spirit and sleek sophistication of the best of modernism.
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