Tracing Harry Bertoia’s Legacy in “Bertoia: The Metal Worker”

A celebration of a designer, musician and artist who knew no bounds

Cataloging Harry Bertoia‘s work—which ranges from ambient music albums to the iconic diamond chair—is no simple feat. Bertoia seemingly knew no bounds—undefined by any singular medium or intention—and his influence remains wildly significant. In her new book, Bertoia: The Metal Worker, Beverly Twitchell attempts to distill his working life into 288 pages featuring 230 images and illustrations. The tome is gloriously designed, and doesn’t eschew appearance for important information.

Dividing Bertoia’s story into seven sections, Twitchell addresses his time at Cranbrook, his formative years under Knoll, an eventual foray into ambient music and everything in-between. It’s separated with approachability in mind, and a wealth of informational copy exists on the book’s sea foam-colored pages. (White pages are reserved for referential photographs, and sketches exist alongside images of Bertoia and his different works.)

Bertoia’s eponymous collection for Knoll—which debuted in 1952—cemented his legacy as a formative figure in the 20th-century design milieu. The accrued fame and wealth afforded Bertoia the luxury to work only on projects that truly interested him. Many of his creations became examinations of the toils of technology, as he famously sought out the sounds of birds and nature rather than a television or the ongoings in bigger cities. Inspired by vastness and simplicity, his work is almost weightless—oftentimes appearing suspended and his Sonambient works are equally elegant and haunting.

With Twitchell being the most prevalent visitor to Bertoia’s studio in his final years, the book offers incredible insight. Whether it be rough sketches or detailed photographs of his many projects, the book is as subtly informed as the artist it commemorates.

From chapel altarpieces and wire chairs to silver adornments and Sonambient sculptures, Bertoia’s legacy is comprehensively explored in this book that collectors, students and experts will all appreciate.

Bertoia: The Metal Worker is available online.

Photos by Evan Malachosky