Bertoia Wire Chair

Bertoia Wire Chair

With his iconic seating collection, Harry Bertoia transformed industrial wire rods into a new furniture form. The events that made this work possible began a decade earlier at Cranbrook Academy of Art, when Bertoia met Florence Knoll (then Florence Schust). Years later, the Italian-born designer was invited to work for Florence and her husband, Hans Knoll. Bertoia was given the freedom to work on whatever suited him, without being held to a strict design agenda, and the result of this arrangement was the Bertoia Seating Collection . Featuring a delicate filigreed appearance that’s supremely strong, these airy seats are sculpted out of steel rods. In his art, Bertoia experimented with open forms and metal work, and these chairs were an extension of that work. “If you look at the chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture,” said Bertoia. “Space passes through them.” After designing his seating collection, Bertoia returned to focusing mostly on sculpture. This is the authentic Bertoia Chair produced by Knoll. The Knoll logo is stamped into its base. Made in Italy.
bertoia wire chair 1

Bertoia Wire Chair

Description With his iconic seating collection, Harry Bertoia transformed industrial wire rods into a new furniture form. The events that made this work possible began a decade earlier at Cranbrook Academy of Art, when Bertoia met Florence Knoll (then Florence Schust). Years later, the Italian-born designer was invited to work for Florence and her husband, Hans Knoll. Bertoia was given the freedom to work on whatever suited him, without being held to a strict design agenda, and the result of this arrangement was the Bertoia Seating Collection . Featuring a delicate filigreed appearance that’s supremely strong, these airy seats are sculpted out of steel rods. In his art, Bertoia experimented with open forms and metal work, and these chairs were an extension of that work. “If you look at the chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture,” said Bertoia. “Space passes through them.” After designing his seating collection, Bertoia returned to focusing mostly on sculpture. This is the authentic Bertoia Chair produced by Knoll. The Knoll logo is stamped into its base. Made in Italy. The White and Black frames can be used outdoors with limited exposure to the elements. The Chrome frame is not for outdoor use. View All Images
bertoia wire chair 2

Bertoia Wire Chair

With his iconic seating collection, Harry Bertoia transformed industrial wire rods into a new furniture form. The events that made this work possible began a decade earlier at Cranbrook Academy of Art, when Bertoia met Florence Knoll (then Florence Schust). Years later, the Italian-born designer was invited to work for Florence and her husband, Hans Knoll. Bertoia was given the freedom to work on whatever suited him, without being held to a strict design agenda, and the result of this arrangement was the Bertoia Seating Collection . Featuring a delicate filigreed appearance that’s supremely strong, these airy seats are sculpted out of steel rods. In his art, Bertoia experimented with open forms and metal work, and these chairs were an extension of that work. “If you look at the chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture,” said Bertoia. “Space passes through them.” After designing his seating collection, Bertoia returned to focusing mostly on sculpture. This is the authentic Bertoia Chair produced by Knoll. The Knoll logo is stamped into its base. Made in Italy. The White and Black frames can be used outdoors with limited exposure to the elements. The Chrome frame is not for outdoor use.
bertoia wire chair 3

Bertoia Wire Chair

Sculptor, furniture and jewelry designer, graphic artist and metalsmith, Harry Bertoia was one of the great cross-disciplinarians of 20th-century art and design and a central figure in American modernism. Among furniture aficionados he is known for the wire-lattice “Diamond” chair (and its variants such as the tall-backed “Bird” chair) designed for Knoll Inc. and first released in 1952. As an artist, Bertoia is revered for a style that was his alone. Bertoia’s metal sculptures are by turns expressive and austere, powerful and subtle, intimate in scale and monumental. All embody a tension between the intricacy and precision of Bertoia’s forms and the raw strength of his materials: steel, brass, bronze and copper.
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Bertoia Wire Chair

The chairs were produced with varying degrees of upholstery over their light grid-work, and they were handmade at first 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 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. It was only in 2005 that Bertoia’s asymmetrical chaise longue was introduced at the Milan Furniture Fair and sold out immediately.
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Bertoia Wire Chair

The first versions of Bertoia’s wire chairs were made with the edges comprised of two thin wires, welded together on either side of the mesh seat. Unfortunately, this design had already been patented by Herman Miller for their Eames wire side chair. Herman Miller successfully sued Knoll, so subsequent generations of the Bertoia chair were made with a single thick wire on the edge of the chair. The wires of the seat rest on top of the edge wire, and are ground down at the edges so they won’t poke you while you sit (although you may still get a distinctive ‘waffle butt” pattern if you sit in one of the unpadded chairs).
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Bertoia Wire Chair

     Fortune seemed to guide Bertoia’s artistic development. Born in northeastern Italy, Bertoia immigrated to the United States at age 15, joining an older brother in Detroit. He studied drawing and metalworking in the gifted student program at Cass Technical High School. Recognition led to awards that culminated, in 1937, in a teaching scholarship to attend the Cranbrook Academy of Art in suburban Bloomfield Hills, one of the great crucibles of modernism in America. There, Bertoia made friendships — with architect Eero Saarinen, designers Charles and Ray Eames and Florence Schust Knoll and others — that shaped the course of his life. He taught metalworking at Cranbrook, and when materials rationing during World War II limited the availability of metals, Bertoia focused on jewelry design. He also experimented with monotype printmaking, and 19 of his earliest efforts were bought by the Guggenheim Museum.
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Bertoia Wire Chair

Starting out as a painting student but soon being asked to take over the metal workshop in 1939, Bertoia 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 Ray Eames and Edmund Bacon’s wife Ruth. When all the metal was taken up by war efforts, he became the graphics instructor. Still at Cranbrook, in 1943 he married Brigitta Valentiner, and then moved to California to work for Charles and Ray at the Molded Plywood Division of the Evans Product Company. Bertoia worked there until 1946, then sold his jewelry and monotypes until obtaining work with the Electronics Naval Lab in La Jolla. In 1950, he was invited to move to Pennsylvania to work with Hans and Florence Knoll. (Florence was also a Cranbrook Graduate.) During this period he designed five wire pieces that became known as the Bertoia Collection for Knoll. Among these was the famous diamond chair, a fluid, sculptural form made from a welded lattice work of steel.
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     By the early 1950s Bertoia was receiving commissions for large-scale works from architects — the first came via Saarinen — as he refined his aesthetic vocabulary into two distinct skeins. One comprises his “sounding sculptures” — gongs and “Sonambient” groupings of rods that strike together and chime when touched by hand or by the wind. The other genre encompasses Bertoia’s naturalistic works: abstract sculptures that suggest bushes, flower petals, leaves, dandelions or sprays of grass. As you will see on these pages, Harry Bertoia was truly unique; his art and designs manifest a wholly singular combination of delicacy and strength.
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On the suggestion of Herbert Matter, who had worked alongside Eames and Bertoia, Florence and Hans traveled to California and encouraged Bertoia to move east and set up his own metal shop in the corner of Knoll’s production facility. Having studied with Bertoia at Cranbrook, Florence was sure that he would produce something brilliant if given the time and space to experiment.
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Today Knoll carries on Harry Bertoia’s legacy of innovation, inspiration and beauty with the Bertoia collection, which has been in continuous production around the world since its introduction. In 2005 Knoll introduced the Asymmetric Lounge, a design from Bertoia’s initial experimentation that never reached production.
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The distinctive Wire Chair, designed by Harry Bertoia in 1952, is a fascinating feature of any room. The curves of the chair, formed of welded steel latticework, create a modern look and ensure seating comfort. The Leatherette cushion complements the elegant, shiny metal frame. The Italian designer had an extensive interest in the technical execution of bent rods, which resulted in his unique and appealing design classics. Poly & Bark produces the Wire Chair with a highly-polished stainless steel frame. Complete with a cushion upholstered in durable Vinyl, in a choice of colors, this is a timeless piece that is built to last. In addition these chairs are remarkably comfortable.

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