Harry Bertoia

Harry Bertoia is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. d. November 6, 1978 in Barto
Barto, Pennsylvania
Barto is an unincorporated community situated between the boroughs of Bally and Bechtelsville in Washington Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania. Barto is part of the Delaware Valley, located near the border with Montgomery County. Its zip code is 19504 and the West Branch Perkiomen Creek flows...

, Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

), http://www.kalvos.org/reddess1.html was an Italian-born artist, sculptor, and modern furniture
Modern furniture
Modern furniture refers to furniture produced from the late 19th century through the present that is influenced by modernism. It was a tremendous departure from all furniture design that had gone before it. Dark or gilded carved wood and richly patterned fabrics gave way to the glittering...


At the age of 15 he traveled from Italy to Detroit to visit his older brother, however he chose to stay and enrolled in Cass Technical High School
Cass Technical High School
The Cass Tech Technicians football team is a high school football program in Division 1 Public School League, representing the prestigious Cass Technical High School in Detroit, MI. Cass Tech High School has long been recognized nationwide for its extraordinary football program dating back to its...

, where he studied art and design and learned the art of handmade jewelry
Handmade jewelry
Handmade jewelry is jewelry which has been assembled and formed by hand rather than through the use of machines. According to the guidelines of the FTC, in order to be stamped or called "handmade" the work must be made solely by hand power or hand guidance. This means that jewelry may be made...

 making. In 1938 he attended the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, now known as the College for Creative Studies
College for Creative Studies
College for Creative Studies is an art education institution in the United States and was cited by BusinessWeek as one of the 60 best design schools in the world. It is a private, fully accredited, four-year college located in Detroit, Michigan...

. The following year in 1937 he received a scholarship to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where he encountered Walter Gropius
Walter Gropius
Walter Adolph Georg Gropius was a German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School who, along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture....

, Edmund N. Bacon and Ray and Charles Eames
Charles and Ray Eames
Charles Ormond Eames, Jr and Bernice Alexandra "Ray" Eames were American designers, who worked in and made major contributions to modern architecture and furniture. They also worked in the fields of industrial and graphic design, fine art and film.-Charles Eames:Charles Eames, Jr was born in...

 for the first time.


Opening his own metal workshop in 1939 he taught jewelry design and metal work. Later, as the war effort made metal a rare and very expensive commodity he began to focus his efforts on jewelry making, even designing and creating wedding rings for Charles and Ray Eames and Edmund Bacon's wife Ruth. Later in 1943, he married Brigitta Valentiner, and moved to California to work for Charles and Ray at the Molded Plywood Division of the Evans Product Company. He worked for them until the war ended in September 1945.

In 1950, he moved to Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

, to establish a studio, and to work with Hans
Hans Knoll
Hans G. Knoll was a German American who, together with his wife, Florence Knoll, founded Knoll, the well known design company and furniture manufacturer.-Biography:...

 and Florence Knoll
Florence Knoll
Florence Knoll Bassett is an American architect and furniture designer who studied under Mies van der Rohe and Eliel Saarinen. She was born in Saginaw, Michigan as Florence Schust and is known in familiar circles simply as "Shu"...

. (Florence was also a Cranbrook Graduate). During this period he designed five wire pieces that became known as the Bertoia Collection for Knoll
Knoll (company)
Knoll is a design firm that produces office systems, seating, files and storage, tables and desks, textiles , and accessories for office and for the home. The company also manufactures furniture for the home by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Harry Bertoia, Florence Knoll , Frank Gehry, Maya Lin and...

. Among them the famous 'Diamond chair
Diamond chair
The Diamond Chair is a chair designed by Harry Bertoia. It is made with welded steel with rods in polished or satin chrome, or bonded rilsan, a very durable adhesive-fused nylon-dipped finish. Scratch, chip, and chemical resistant. All wire seating includes glides. Cushions are secured to chair...

' a fluid, sculptural form made from a molded lattice work of welded steel.

In Bertoia's own words, "If you look at these chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture. Space passes right through them."

They were produced with varying degrees of upholstery over their light grid-work, and they were handmade because a suitable mass production process could not be found. Unfortunately, the chair edge utilized two thin wires welded on either side of the mesh seat. This design had been granted a patent to the Eames for the wire chair produced by Herman Miller. Herman Miller
Herman Miller (office equipment)
Herman Miller, Inc., based in Zeeland, Michigan, is a major American manufacturer of office furniture and equipment, as well as furniture for the home. It is notable as one of the first companies to produce modern furniture and, under the guidance of Design Director George Nelson, is likely the...

 eventually won and Bertoia & Knoll redesigned the seat edge, using a thicker, single wire, and grinding down the edge of the seat wires at a smooth angle - the same way the chairs are produced today. Nonetheless, the commercial success enjoyed by Bertoia's diamond chair was immediate.

Sound sculpture

In the mid-50's the chairs being produced by Knoll sold so well, that the lump sum arrangement allowed him to devote himself exclusively to sculpture. In 1957 he was a fellow at the Graham Foundation in Chicago. The sculptural work that he produced on his own explored the ways in which metal could be manipulated to produce sound. By stretching and bending the metal, he made it respond to wind or to touch, creating different tones.

He performed with the pieces in a number of concerts and even produced a series of ten albums, all entitled "Sonambient
Sonambient is the name of a series of vinyl LP albums recorded, designed, produced and released by mid-century modern sculptor Harry Bertoia himself...

", of the music made by his art, manipulated by his hands along with the elements of nature. In the late 1990s, his daughter found a large collection of NM condition original albums stored away in one of the barns that he used as studio space on his property in Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

. These were sold as collector's items and fetched large sums, and four of the pieces, culled from three of the records were reissued by a Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese record label
Record label
In the music industry, a record label is a brand and a trademark associated with the marketing of music recordings and music videos. Most commonly, a record label is the company that manages such brands and trademarks, coordinates the production, manufacture, distribution, marketing and promotion,...

 called "P.S.F. Records" entitled "Unfolding" after the names of one of the tracks on catalog #F/W 1024, which also had a track each from F/W #1025 and F/W #1032.

The Addison Gallery of American Art
Addison Gallery of American Art
The Addison Gallery of American Art, as a department of Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, is an academic museum dedicated to collecting American art...

 (Andover, Massachusetts), the Brooklyn Museum
Brooklyn Museum
The Brooklyn Museum is an encyclopedia art museum located in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. At 560,000 square feet, the museum holds New York City's second largest art collection with roughly 1.5 million works....

 (New York City), the Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland Museum of Art
The Cleveland Museum of Art is an art museum situated in the Wade Park District, in the University Circle neighborhood on Cleveland's east side. Internationally renowned for its substantial holdings of Asian and Egyptian art, the museum houses a diverse permanent collection of more than 43,000...

, the Dallas Public Library
Dallas Public Library
The Dallas Public Library system serves as the municipal library system of the city of Dallas, Texas .-History:In 1899, the idea to create a free public library in Dallas was conceived by the Dallas Federation of Women's Clubs, led by president Mrs. Henry Exall. She helped raise US$11,000 from...

, the Detroit Institute of Arts
Detroit Institute of Arts
The Detroit Institute of Arts is a renowned art museum in the city of Detroit. In 2003, the DIA ranked as the second largest municipally owned museum in the United States, with an art collection valued at more than one billion dollars...

, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is an art museum beside the National Mall, in Washington, D.C., the United States. The museum was initially endowed during the 1960s with the permanent art collection of Joseph H. Hirshhorn. It was designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft and is part of the...

 (Washington D.C.), the Honolulu Academy of Arts
Honolulu Academy of Arts
The Honolulu Academy of Arts is an art museum in Honolulu in the state of Hawaii. Since its founding in 1922 by Anna Rice Cooke and opening April 8, 1927, its collections have grown to over 40,000 works of art.-Description:...

, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art opened in 1994 in Kansas City, Missouri. The core of the museum's permanent collection is the Bebe and R. Crosby Kemper Jr. Collection, a gift of the museum's founders. The collection includes works created after the 1913 Armory Show to works by present-day...

 (Kansas City, Missouri), the Nasher Sculpture Center
Nasher Sculpture Center
Opened in 2003, the Nasher Sculpture Center is a museum in Dallas, Texas that houses a collection of modern and contemporary sculpture. It is located on a site adjacent to the Dallas Museum of Art in the heart of the Dallas Arts District...

 (Dallas, Texas), the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is among the largest art museums in the United States. It is located at the west end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. The Museum was established in 1876 in conjunction with the Centennial Exposition of the same year...

, the Reading Public Museum
Reading Public Museum
The Reading Public Museum, in West Reading, Pennsylvania, has displays featuring science and civilizations, a planetarium and a arboretum. It also offers educational programs for families, adults and children, and a yearly cultural festival....

 (Reading, Pennsylvania)], the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is a museum in Washington, D.C. with an extensive collection of American art.Part of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum has a broad variety of American art that covers all regions and art movements found in the United States...

 (Washington D.C.), the Vero Beach Museum of Art
Vero Beach Museum of Art
The Vero Beach Museum of Art is located at 3001 River Park Drive, Vero Beach, Florida. It houses regional, state and national art exhibits and includes a sculpture garden. The Vero Beach Museum of Art is the principal cultural arts facility of its kind on Florida’s Treasure Coast...

 (Vero Beach, Florida), and the Walker Art Center
Walker Art Center
The Walker Art Center is a contemporary art center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. The Walker is considered one of the nation's "big five" museums for modern art along with the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Hirshhorn...

 (Minneapolis, Minnesota) are among the public collections holding work by Harry Bertoia.

Bertoia's "Sunburst Sculpture" owned by the Joslyn Art Museum
Joslyn Art Museum
The Joslyn Art Museum is the principal fine arts museum in the state of Nebraska, United States of America. Located in Omaha, it is the only museum in the state with a comprehensive permanent collection...

 was originally installed in the Joslyn's Fountain Court. It is now
located in the lobby of the Milton R. Abrahams Branch of the Omaha Public Library
Omaha Public Library
Omaha Public Library is a public library system for the city of Omaha, Nebraska. Originally founded in 1857, the library struggled for many years before formally forming in 1877. In 1895, the library became one of the first six in the nation to create a children's section...

. Lord Palumbo
Peter Palumbo, Baron Palumbo
Peter Garth Palumbo, Baron Palumbo is a property developer, art collector and architecture connoisseur.-Biography:Palumbo is the son of Rudolph Palumbo and his wife Elsie. He went to Scaitcliffe, Surrey and then Eton College and Worcester College, Oxford, whence he received an M.A. in law...

 owns several Bertoia works which are on display at Kentuck Knob
Kentuck Knob
Kentuck Knob, also known as the Hagan House, is a residence designed by the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in rural Stewart Township near the village of Chalk Hill, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, USA, about southeast of Pittsburgh...

. Bertoia's "Sounding Sculpture" can be found in the plaza of The Aon Center
Aon Center (Chicago)
The Aon Center is a modern skyscraper in the Chicago Loop, Chicago, Illinois, United States, designed by architect firms Edward Durell Stone and The Perkins and Will partnership, and completed in 1973 as the Standard Oil Building...

, Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

's second tallest building. Another "Sounding Sculpture", considerably smaller than the one mentioned above, is featured in the Rose Terrace of the Chicago Botanic Garden
Chicago Botanic Garden
Located at 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, Illinois, USA, the Chicago Botanic Garden is a living plant museum situated on nine islands featuring 24 display gardens and surrounded by four natural habitats: McDonald Woods, Dixon Prairie, Skokie River Corridor, and Lakes and Shores. The Garden is open...

, and a third very similar to the piece in Chicago called " Sounding Piece" was until 2003 on display at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art is an art museum located on the northwest corner of the Arts Quad on the main campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. It is most well known for its distinctive concrete facade, its collection which includes two windows from Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin...

 at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

 in Ithaca
Ithaca or Ithaka is an island located in the Ionian Sea, in Greece, with an area of and a little more than three thousand inhabitants. It is also a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and the only municipality of the regional unit. It lies off the northeast coast of Kefalonia and...

, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

. As explained in October 3, 1995 piece in the weekly "Dear Uncle Ezra" column of the university newspaper:

Dear Uncle Ezra,

What is that sound coming from the Johnson Museum? It's a pingy type sound that I guess could be some kind of wind chime but it seems like it's coming from the building itself.

— Just wondering

Dear Chiming In,

Well, it almost is coming from the building itself. What you hear is "Sounding Piece", a sculpture by Harry Bertoia that permanently resides on the sculpture court (outdoor balcony) on the second floor of the Johnson Museum. The chimes sway back and forth on tall rods and "ping" or "gong" into each other (depending on which chime and how hard they collide) when winds move them. It's one of my all-time favorites, well worth a visit if you haven't seen it. You can go out on to the sculpture court until at least the end of October. Once winter sets in, the chimes are secured so that they won't snap in the windy, icy weather.

Uncle Ezra

The sculpture was taken off view after it was damaged in a storm in 2003 http://icommons.org/articles/artist-in-residence-overview.

Other work

Bertoia was the sculptor commissioned to create the Marshall University
Marshall University
Marshall University is a coeducational public research university in Huntington, West Virginia, United States founded in 1837, and named after John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the United States....

 fountain in Huntington, West Virginia
Huntington, West Virginia
Huntington is a city in Cabell and Wayne counties in the U.S. state of West Virginia, along the Ohio River. Most of the city is in Cabell County, for which it is the county seat. A small portion of the city, mainly the neighborhood of Westmoreland, is in Wayne County. Its population was 49,138 at...

, to honor the university's football team in the wake of the plane crash that killed them on November 14, 1970. For more information on the disaster, see Marshall University air disaster.

The 1954 Gordon Bunshaft
Gordon Bunshaft
Gordon Bunshaft was an architect educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1988, Gordon Bunshaft nominated himself for the Pritzker Prize and eventually won it.-Career:...

 building for Manufacturer's Hanover Trust-now JPMorgan Chase (510 Fifth Ave at West 43rd Street, New York City) included a full building-width, second-floor screen-sculpture by Bertoia. It was dismantled and removed in 2010 by J. P. Morgan Chase.

The 'Golden Sun' was commissioned in 1967 for The Whiting, an auditorium in Flint, Michigan
Flint, Michigan
Flint is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan and is located along the Flint River, northwest of Detroit. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the 2010 population to be placed at 102,434, making Flint the seventh largest city in Michigan. It is the county seat of Genesee County which lies in the...

. Seven feet in diameter, the spherical sculpture consists of 675 gold-plated stainless steel branches and hangs in the building's lobby.


He had a son and two daughters, a grandson and two granddaughters (one died young), and three great grandchildren so far. Some members of the subsequent two generations are engaged in artistic endeavors.
He died of lung cancer
Lung cancer
Lung cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. If left untreated, this growth can spread beyond the lung in a process called metastasis into nearby tissue and, eventually, into other parts of the body. Most cancers that start in lung, known as primary...

at age of 63 on November 6, 1978. His wife Brigitta Valentiner died in 2007, aged 87.

External links

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