In the summer of 1976, the Vogeles visited Harry Bertoia at his studio in Bally, Pennsylvania. Robert had met Harry a year earlier, and the artist extended an open invitation to stop by whenever he was in the area. The Vogeles took him up on his offer and would continue to visit his wife Brigitta and son Val, even after Bertoia's death in 1978.
Harry Bertoia was a special artist friend. I first met him in February of 1975 when he unveiled his model for the Standard Oil Building sculpture. I was able to talk to him at some length and he invited me to stop by his studio if I was ever in Bally, Pennsylvania. I made I point to stop and was never sorry. Harry died of cancer in November of 1978 but in that short period of time that I knew him I came to develop a deep respect for his integrity as an artist. Ruth and I stopped to see him and on one occasion we brought with us our two youngest children. He was gentle and warm and shared his visions with us. Since his death, we have come to know his wife Brigitta and their son Val. Whenever possible, we make it a point to stop and visit. We cherish the work we own by Harry and find our knowing him adds greatly to that appreciation.
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.