All Articles, Harry Bertoia, Mid-Century Modern Designers

Ten Intriguing Creations by Harry Bertoia

The Asymmetric Chaise. This is a lounge chair that is ideal for use on backyard patios and near swimming pools. It has a wire, net-like appearance that has been built using welded steel rods. These wires have been coated with a chrome finish. The back of the chair curves upward. The foot of the chair swerves to the right when viewing from the front. The seat forms a basin, and inside the basin is a seat cushion. The base contains four legs that each merge into two legs to form a trapezoid-like shape. These legs are connected to a stretcher that is connected to the seat to support the chair. Upholstery is optional. Glides are located on the corners of the legs.

The Marshall University Fountain. This sculpture was completed in 1972 in memory of the plane crash that killed 75 members of the Marshall University football team and their coaches and staff. Shaped like two large wings and including a rising central section, this sculpture has been constructed using bronze copper tubing and welding rods. Nearly 150 tubes have been merged together to form the enormous “wings” that extend towards the sky. Water shoots up through the center hub and pours back down at the base of the wings. It is 13 feet in height and weights 6,500 pounds.

The Bird Chair. This chair is made from wire rods that give off an airy, net-like appearance. The back stands erect and is rectangular in shape. It merges into the seat, which is shaped like a rounded diamond with a deep basin designed for sitting or holding cushions. A stainless steel metal base is attached to the seat. This base includes the legs that merge to form a trapezoid-like shape. A wide range of colors is available for using as upholstery from red to beige to yellow to black. An ottoman with matching upholstery and two bent metal tubes for legs often accompanies the chair.

The Bush Sculpture. Taking metal rods and welding them into different forms is how Bertoia created a variety of these sculptures. He begins by using a singular copper rod that serves as the trunk of the bush or tree. Once many other, thinner rods are attached to the trunk, these “branches” are cut and a bronze bead is attached to the end. This gives the bush a circular or rounded appearance.

The Diamond Lounge Chair. A wiry, diamond-shaped basin with a net-like appearance forms the seat, back and arms of this chair. The wires and frames are made of welded steel, and the rods are made of chrome. Lock snaps and hooks are provided near the frame to hold cushions and covers. The legs of the chair are formed like a square or trapezoid with the four legs each uniting into two legs with a bottom base. The chair is resistant to being chipped, scratched, and exposed to chemicals.

The Bertoia Bench. The design of this bench is very simple and focuses on angles and shapes. The rectangular seat is comprised of eight wooden slats that are lined up together to show off the airy style that Bertoia is known for. The base includes welded steel tubes where the legs and supports form a “Y” in appearance. As the supports that hold the wood slats up each form a triangle, the four legs all form 90-degree angles with a bottom base that can slide across the floor.

The Sonambient Sculptures. These are a series of tall, thin rods and bars that are grouped together to elicit a variety of tonal sounds. The origin of these sculptures came about when Bertoia was working with his sculpting wires. One wire touched another wire and it created an interesting sound. Thousands of sonambient pieces have been created and vary in height, size, and quantity of rods. Some rods are placed on brass foundations to be set on the ground, and other rods can be hung from the ceiling using wires or strings.

The Sonambient Albums. To accompany his Sonambient sounding sculptures, Harry Bertoia recorded a series of albums between 1968 and 1978 that focused on creating unique tones and organic sounds. This was accomplished by allowing the rods and bars of his Sonambient sculptures to touch or brush against one another. More than 360 magnetic-tape recordings were produced and 11 of the recordings were issued as vinyl records. Currently, these records are out-of-print and are selling for high prices.

The Sunburst Sculpture. This sculpture that was created in 1963 is located in the Milton R. Abrahams Branch library located in Omaha, Nebraska. Shaped like a large dandelion, it is made of gold plated stainless steel. The plethora of rods that are attached to a metal pole shoot out in every direction and include a bead on each end to create a circular appearance.

The Sculpture Screens. This is a series of Harry Bertoia sculptures that consists of metal panels made of copper, nickel, and brass. The panels are welded together loosely against a support and stand separately in several rows. Poles are used to anchor the supports that hold the panels. The entireties of the sculptures are often very large in size, expanding to about 70 feet in length.