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.

Timeline

1915
Born in San Lorenzo, Pordenone, Italy
1937
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
1938
Attended the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, now known as the College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI
1939
Opened his own metal workshop and taught jewelry design and metal work
1943
Married Brigitta Valentiner and moved to California to work with Charles and Ray Eames for the Evans Product Company
1950
Moved to Pennsylvania to establish a studio and to work with Hans and Florence Knoll
1950–1955
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
1957
Fellow at the Graham Foundation in Chicago, IL
1978
Died in Barto, PA

Exhibitions

2009
Pordenone Art Museum, Pordenone, Friuli, Italy
2008
Seraphin Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
2006
Reading Art Museum, Reading, PA
2001
Kennedy Galleries, New York, NY
Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI
1999
Allentown Art Musuem, Allentown, PA
1984
Fairweather Hardin Gallery, Chicago, IL
1981
Harry Bertoia, Retrospective, Staempfli Gallery, New York, NY
1978
Grieg Hall, Bergen, Norway
Heinie-Onstad Museum, Oslo, Norway
1977
Marshall University, Huntington, WV
1975
Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, PA
Olympia Galleries, Glenside, PA
1973
Marshall University, Huntingdon, WV
1966
St. Paul Art Center, St. Paul, MN
1961
Staempfli Gallery, New York, NY
St. Paul Art Center, St. Paul, MN
1958
US Pavilion, Brussels World's Fair, Brussels, Belgium
1957
The American Federation of Arts, New York, NY
1956
Fairweather Harden Gallery, Chicago, IL
1954
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
1952
Knoll Associates, New York, NY
1947
Nierendorf Gallery, New York, NY
1945
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
1943
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