Simple, straightforward and unassuming in its clever design, the Bertoia bench is a hallmark mid-century modern piece. Harry Bertoia (1915–78) was an Italian-American sculptor, jewelry designer and furniture maker who developed his famous bench for Knoll in 1952. Made of slatted wood set atop a chrome-plated welded steel frame, the bench was Bertoia’s first product for Knoll, who granted him creative freedom when he joined the company’s studio in 1950. While the piece does not represent Bertoia’s now-famous signature wire-lattice style, it does hint at the sculptural quality that characterizes all of his work.
Before arriving at Knoll, Bertoia studied painting at Cranbrook Academy of Art. He eventually became a faculty member there, working alongside Eliel Saarinen, Walter Gropius and others. Bertoia eventually left the academy for California to help Charles and Ray Eames perfect the design of an award-winning chair that Charles had worked on with Eero Saarinen while at Cranbrook. It was thanks to Bertoia’s breakthrough welding contributions and innovations with plywood that cleared a path to mass production for both the chair and other wood-laminate furniture. However, the Eameses failed to credit Bertoia once the chair hit the market, thus ending the trio’s working relationship. A few years later, Bertoia joined the Knoll studio at the behest of his former Cranbrook classmate, Florence Knoll, and there he produced the bench as well as the beloved Diamond chair. Sculptural and versatile, the Bertoia bench can also be used as a coffee table. It is still manufactured by Knoll today.
Harry Bertoia Bench 400y 410y
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