Sep 14, 10:00 AM–9:00 PM
You may know his iconic furniture without knowing his name—or that Italian-born designer Harry Bertoia (1915–1978) also produced outstanding work in printmaking, jewelry, and monumental architectural sculpture.
In 2004–5, local collectors Robert and Laura Cadwallader gave the San Antonio Museum of Art three excellent Bertoia works: a sculpture composed of bundled rods; a child’s chair formed of the wire grid characteristic of his popular Knoll chairs; and a “Sonambient” sculpture that emits sounds when struck. They are now exhibited for the first time, accompanied by several pieces on loan from private collections that chronicle the breadth of Bertoia’s artistic vision and superb craftsmanship.
After immigrating to the United States at age 15, Bertoia enrolled in the innovative Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, in 1937. Among his classmates were artists who would influence his work for the rest of his life: architect Eero Saarinen, designers Charles and Ray Eames, and Hans and Florence Knoll, who established the successful furniture company Knoll, Inc., in 1950, which ultimately produced his chair designs.
At Cranbrook Bertoia was in charge of the metalworking shop, working on small jewelry pieces in silver, brass, and gold that propelled him deeper into metalworking, which became a focus of his career.
Bertoia collaborated on furniture design with Charles and Ray Eames in 1943 before joining the Knolls’ newly established design firm in 1950—the turning point of his career. His initial designs for light wire grid chairs, sometimes upholstered, were an immediate success and are still widely sold today.
From then on, Bertoia created wall sculptures for important new architecture, fountains for public art, and thousands of small sculptures investigating a variety of metals and finishes. The “Sonambient” sound sculptures made from metal rods, and the music he composed for them, were the final creations that secured his artistic reputation.
This focus exhibition allows viewers to explore the development of an innovative artist across several media.
Harry Bertoia: Sculptor and Modernist Designer
Opens September 14, 2018
Harry Bertoia (American, 1915-1978), Partition of Sound, 1973, Beryllium copper rods silvered to brass plate, h. 28 in. (71.1 cm); w. 36 in. (91.4 cm); d. 6 in. (15.2 cm), Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert B. Cadwallader, 2004.19.1, © 2018 Estate of Harry Bertoia / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York