Harry Bertoia

March 10th 1915 – November 6th 1978

Photo of Harry Bertoia
After studying at various art schools in Detroit, Bertoia subsequently opened his own metal workshop in Cranbrook in 1939, where he specialised in teaching metalwork and jewellery design. It was in Cranbrook that he first met Charles Eames, and in 1946 he moved to California to help Charles Eames develop methods of bending and laminating plywood. It's amazing that his contribution to the Eames chairs was so great, yet so relatively unknown.

Bertoia gained American citizenship in the mid-1940s, before moving to Pennsylvania in 1950 to start his own metal shop within Hans and Florence Knoll's production facility. Here, he was at liberty to work on whichever projects he fancied - but it was his range of five chairs that he produced for Knoll, known as the Bertoia Collection, that propelled him to success.

These stunning wire framed pieces - some with upholstery and some without - were unable to be mass produced, and so were all made by hand. First unveiled in 1952, these pieces (which included Bertoia's famed Diamond Chair and Bird Chair) became a huge commercial success, and a step forward for modernist design. They were such a success, in fact, that they were the first and last furniture creations for Bertoia, who used the proceeds to focus purely on his sculptural work.

It is clear from his designs that Bertoia had mastered the relationship between space and form, and that his skill as both a sculptor and a designer have created a collection that remains just as popular today.

Products by this designer