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Harry Bertoia

Born:
San Lorenzo, Italy 1915

Died:
Barto, Pennsylvania 1978

Active in:

  • Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Biography

Best known as a sculptor and furniture designer, Harry Bertoia was born in San Lorenzo, Udine, Italy. In 1928 he began taking drawing classes in Italy before immigrating first to Canada, then to Detroit in 1930. He received a scholarship to the School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts in 1936 and a year later was awarded a teaching scholarship at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. There he taught metalworking from 1937 to 1942 and then graphics for one year. In 1943 Bertoia moved to Los Angeles to work as a furniture designer. He also took welding classes at Santa Monica City College and in 1947 created his first welded sculptures. During this period Bertoia became an American citizen. His employer, Knoll Associates, introduced the Bertoia Collection of furniture in 1952. The following year he received his first commission for a large-scale sculpture for the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. Bertoia subsequently resigned from Knoll Associates to concentrate on his sculpture. His distinguished work brought him other major commissions for the Massachussetts Institute of Technology Chapel, Lambert Airport in St. Louis, Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., and the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond, Virginia. Beginning in the 1940s, Bertoia exhibited extensively. Among his many awards were the Gold Medal given by the Architectural League of New York (1955–56), the Fine Arts Medal from the Pennsylvania Association of the American Institute of Architects (1963), and an honorary doctorate from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1976).

Joann Moser Singular Impressions: The Monotype in America (Washington, D.C. and London: Smithsonian Institution Press for the National Museum of American Art, 1997)

Luce Center for American Art