Harry Bertoia

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Harry Bertoia (Italian/American,1915-1978) was a prodigiously talented artist and designer who created some of the most innovative furniture of the 20th century.

Harry Bertoia Overview


Harry Bertoia's story is one of immigration and hard work, having moved to Detroit from Italy aged just 15 to join his older brother, he enrolled in a series of technical schools and colleges while learning English and the American way of life, building on his natural artistic gifts to develop skills in production, first actually producing jewellery similar to Rene Lalique. However, it was a scholarship to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1937 which proved definitive for the Bertoia’s development for there he met the likes of Walter Gropius, the Eames brothers, Eero Saarinan and, perhaps most importantly, Florence Knoll.

Following a period working with Charles Eames on the potential applications of moulded plywood, having won the Museum of Modern Art organic furniture competition alongside Saarianan, in 1950 Bertoia was invited by Florence and Hans Knoll of Knoll Inc. to produce furniture with complete creative control – the result was the Bertoia chair collection introduced in 1952.  The most famous in the series is the “Diamond” chair, a lattice of welded steel which Bertoia saw as sculpture as much as seating: "If you look at these chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture. Space passes right through them."  They struck a chord with enthusiasts for what would become known as the “Midcentury Modern” style, a later term that has become familiar with modern-day collectors of this period encapsulating the pioneering aesthetics of Bertoia and his contemporaries.

Harry Bertoia at Auction

The works of Harry Bertoia are sought-after at auction with value on a sliding scale depending on how close to original manufacture a given piece is.  Later editions still hold value, however, as seen when his asymmetrical chaise longue sold out on debut at the Milan Furniture Fair in 2005.  Wilson55 have a good record for Bertoia works, having sold a Knoll Bench for £1,000 and a set of 1970s “Diamond” chairs for £360, and welcome further consignments.

Our specialist Modern Art & Design auctions are held four times a year and cover a wide selection of furniture, studio pottery, ceramics, glass, print & multiples, paintings and more.  For a free, confidential auction valuation of your collection, to enquire about any of our lots or to enter your own collection into one of our specialist sales, get in touch: james.spiridion@wilson55.com or fill in our online valuation form below. 


Modern Design Directory

Meet the Expert

James Spiridion

Auctioneer and valuer specialising in Modern Design. James has recently returned to the North West after spending the last few years as a valuer in Scotland, during that time James also featured on Paul Martin's Auction Showdown for Channel 5 as a 'Rival Auctioneer'.


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