Harry Bertoia (Italian, 1915–1978) was a sculptor who was best known for his classic Bertoia Chair and numerous monumental architectural sculptures. He was born in Arieto Bertoia in San Lorenzo, Italy, on March 10, 1915. He attended school in Italy until the age of 15, when he accompanied his father to Michigan to see his brother Oreste. Upon immigrating to the United States, he Americanized his name, adapting it from his Italian nickname, Arieto, meaning "little Harry."

After finishing high school in Detroit, Bertoia received a scholarship to the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, where he studied drawing and painting. In 1937, he attended the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI. In 1939, he was asked to stay on at Cranbrook Academy to teach metalwork. Metal was scarce during World War II, so Bertoia was forced to concentrate on jewelry making. When he wasn't teaching, Bertoia spent time creating monoprints, which he later sent to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum to be assessed. In 1943, the Guggenheim foundation exhibited 19 of Bertoia's prints.

In 1943, Cranbrook Academy of Art closed its doors, and Bertoia moved to California. While there, he worked with Charles Eames and Ray Eames on projects that involved sculpting molded plywood. During this time, he continued to work on his monoprints, and held his first exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1945. In 1950, he moved to Pennsylvania to work with Hans Knoll.

It was during this time that Bertoia designed the Bertoia Diamond Chair series, which is still produced by Knoll, Inc. In 1953, General Motors commissioned Bertoia to complete an architectural sculpture, which became his first of many. Some of Bertoia's more notable architectural sculptures include View of Earth From Space, designed for the Dulles International Airport, Waves, designed for the Philadelphia Civic Center, and Sounding, a fountain piece designed to sit in front of the Standard Oil building in Chicago.

Bertoia died from lung cancer on November 6, 1978.


Born in San Lorenzo, Pordenone, Italy
He received a scholarship to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where he encountered Walter Gropius, Edmund N. Bacon and Ray and Charles Eames for the first time, Bloomfield Hills, MI
Attended the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, now known as the College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI
Opened his own metal workshop and taught jewelry design and metal work
Married Brigitta Valentiner and moved to California to work with Charles and Ray Eames for the Evans Product Company
Moved to Pennsylvania to establish a studio and to work with Hans and Florence Knoll
The commercial success enjoyed by Bertoia's diamond chair was immediate and in the mid-50's the chairs, produced by Knoll, sold so well that the royalties he received for them allowed him to devote himself exclusively to sculpture
Fellow at the Graham Foundation in Chicago, IL
Died in Barto, PA


Pordenone Art Museum, Pordenone, Friuli, Italy
Seraphin Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Reading Art Museum, Reading, PA
Kennedy Galleries, New York, NY
Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI
Allentown Art Musuem, Allentown, PA
Fairweather Hardin Gallery, Chicago, IL
Harry Bertoia, Retrospective, Staempfli Gallery, New York, NY
Grieg Hall, Bergen, Norway
Heinie-Onstad Museum, Oslo, Norway
Marshall University, Huntington, WV
Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, PA
Olympia Galleries, Glenside, PA
Marshall University, Huntingdon, WV
St. Paul Art Center, St. Paul, MN
Staempfli Gallery, New York, NY
St. Paul Art Center, St. Paul, MN
US Pavilion, Brussels World's Fair, Brussels, Belgium
The American Federation of Arts, New York, NY
Fairweather Harden Gallery, Chicago, IL
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
Knoll Associates, New York, NY
Nierendorf Gallery, New York, NY
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI
Nierendorf Gallery, New York, NY

Public Collections

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO
Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, TX
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
Vero Beach Museum of Art, Vero Beach, FL