Harry Bertoia


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Italian-born sculptor and designer who settled in the USA in 1930 and became an American citizen in 1946. He studied at the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, then at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Michigan; in 1939 he began teaching metalwork at Cranbrook. His colleagues there included the architect and designer Charles Eames (1907–78), and in 1943 Bertoia moved to California to join him in designing a series of chairs. In 1950 he moved to Bally, Pennsylvania, where in 1952 he designed the Bertoia chair, which features an elegant moulded mesh of chromium-plated steel wire. It was well suited to the open planning becoming popular in American homes and offices and was marketed with great success by Knoll Associates Inc. By this time, however, Bertoia was turning increasingly to sculpture, and in 1953 he received his first large sculptural commission—a screen for the General Motors Technical Center in Detroit. Many other major commissions followed, including a fountain (1967) at the Civic Center, Philadelphia. Typically his sculptures are sensitively related to their architectural setting and combine strong abstract forms with intricately worked detail (sometimes deriving from plant tendrils and other organic forms) in which he demonstrated his skill as a metalworker (the materials he used included brass, bronze, and steel). From 1960 until the end of his life, Bertoia also experimented with incorporating sound effects in his sculpture, generally by employing metal rods that strike against one another.

Subjects: Art.

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