Important Design /08 June 2010

610

Harry Bertoia

untitled (monumental Bush form)
USA, c. 1962
welded copper and bronze with applied patina
25 w x 22 d x 42 h in (63 x 56 x 107 cm)

The highly detailed and labor-intensive Bush series illustrates a mastery of welded metal sculpture by Harry Bertoia. Initially growing out of an exploration of natural forms using wire or brass-coated iron, the Bush forms became more refined throughout the 1960s. Executed in copper and bronze which garners a rich green patina over time, the Bush sculptures culminate in purified shapes that are defined by the undulating surfaces of metal points. Bertoia’s best works from this series display a scale and density of material that distinguish them in his oeuvre. This masterpiece was acquired directly from the Harry Bertoia by a close friend in the early 1960s.

provenance: Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

estimate: $300,000–500,000

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Harry Bertoia 1915–1978

Harry Bertoia was a true Renaissance man well versed in the language of art and design. Born in San Lorenzo, Italy in 1915, Bertoia relocated to the United States at the age of fifteen and enrolled at Cass Technical High School in Detroit to study hand-made jewelry. In 1937, Bertoia was awarded a scholarship to attend the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan where he studied under the direction of Maija Grotell and Walter Gropius. Bertoia was drawn to the mostly empty metal shop, and after two years in the program, Bertoia was invited to head the department.

At Cranbrook, Bertoia was introduced to a number of designers whose names would become synonymous with mid-century modern design. Here he met Eero Saarinen, with whom he would collaborate on numerous architectural projects, and Charles and Ray Eames with whom, for a short period during the war, he would work for at the Molded Plywood Division of Evans Products in California. In 1950, Bertoia moved east to Pennsylvania to open his own studio and to work with Florence Knoll designing chairs. Bertoia designed five chairs out of wire that would become icons of the period, all of them popular and all still in production today.

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