Harry Bertoia was Italian-born but moved to the United States after visiting his older brother and studied art and design and jewellery-making there (he actually designed and created wedding rings for Charles and Ray Eames), even opening his own metal workshop. He later on worked for Charles and Ray, ultimately parting ways with them due to creative disagreements (Bertoia purportedly also contributed much to the development of the Eames Plywood Chairs though he has never been officially credited), and then (prodded by his wife) later on, Hans and Florence Knoll, who was a former classmate of Bertoia’s.
Think Bertoia and his Diamond Chair immediately springs into mind. The Diamond Chair (1952; Rhine Lounge Chair with a seat pad option and Kevina Lounge Chair) is actually Bertoia’s last furniture design before he focused on his artistic pursuits. He came up with the highly original design when given free commissioned reign and capitalized on his intimate knowledge of metals. Bertoia spent months and months experimenting working with open forms and steel mesh before he came up with an extraordinary chair that was, as he referred to it, “made mainly of air, like sculpture”. The Diamond Chair features a surprisingly delicate fliligreed pattern in a large, gracefully curved
diamond that belies its pure strength thanks to the industrial material used. Bertoia succeeded in making art out of the metal that had been hitherto unused and it was a resounding commercial success. Its uniform good looks as well as unexpectedly high comfort factor make the Diamond Chair at home everywhere, even outdoors. The Diamond Chair also comes in an upholstered version. It was originally handmade as its design was not suitable for mass production processes.
The Bertoia Asymmetric Lounge (1952; Kevina Lounge Chair) is the most sculptural of Bertoia’s chairs yet had never made it to production until 2005. It is basically an asymmetrical chaise longue version of his iconic Diamond Chair and has a round seat pad.
The Bertoia Side Chair (1952; Jagger Side Chair) is another visually striking creation with the same lattice work but slightly less lounge-y than its counterpart, the Diamond Chair. The welded wire form affords a springy feel to the chair. The Bertoia chairs are truly wonderful and classic, cementing Harry Bertoia’s chair designer status as the ‘Man of Steel’.