This lot is offered together with a certificate of authenticity from the Harry Bertoia Foundation, Bozeman, Montana.
HARRY BERTOIA - MODERN MAGICIAN
Harry Bertoia was a funny kind of magician—one who always let his audience in on the trick. Over the course of his four-decade career, he was astonishingly prolific. Ideas poured from him like water from a Pennsylvania spring, and then—even more remarkably—he simply went to the studio and made them. Though his sculpture might do extraordinary things, swaying in the breeze like a field of grasses, or making music like an orchestra, it was also extremely direct, devoid of mannerism or pretense.
He was born in Italy in 1915, in a small village north of Venice, and emigrated to Detroit in 1930. As a student at Cass Technical, one of many American art and vocational schools set up in the progressive era, his talent was immediately recognized. Study at Cranbrook Academy, then at the height of its potency, followed. His time there shaped his aesthetic into modernist form, tending toward abstraction. Upon graduating, he worked with his classmates Charles and Ray Eames, assisting in their experiments in plywood seating. His contributions were little recognized, however, and he took up an invitation to work with Hans and Florence Knoll in Pennsylvania.
Alongside the iconic Diamond chair and related furniture that he designed for Knoll, Bertoia gave shape to one distinct body of sculpture after another. He also made numerous public artworks, adapting and extending ideas he’d developed at smaller scale. Each new idiom was born through trial and error in the studio, head and eye and hands working in concert. Most of his best-known bodies of work—multi-plane constructions, Bushes, Dandelions and Sunflowers, and his late great innovation, the Sonambients—are represented in the current auction. They show not only his tremendous range, but the synthetic nature of his achievement. These days, in the 21st Century, art, craft and design are losing their formerly distinct contours, swirling into a single undifferentiated terrain. Bertoia got there long ago.