An Architect at Home

Works from the Collection of Donald Wrobleski

The exterior of Wrobleski's home. Photo by Juergen Nogai from Julius Shulman: Chicago Midcentury Modernism book by Gary Gand courtesy of Chicago Bauhaus & Beyond

Luckily for us all, Donald Wrobleski is happy to share his story. I first met the Chicago-based architect through a phone call while he was seeking advice on selling, and how to go about the overwhelming, stifling act of moving from the Bannockburn home which he designed and where he resided for the past sixty years. His home was like a number of architect-owned mid-century interiors I had visited, in that once a furnishing or work of art had had been carefully placed, it rarely moved.  A living time capsule, but not one that is necessarily destined for obsolescence. Rather, a finely preserved moment in time. 

The sunken living room flanked by floor to ceiling glass. Photo by Juergen Nogai from Julius Shulman: Chicago Midcentury Modernism book by Gary Gand courtesy of Chicago Bauhaus & Beyond
The furniture is utilitarian and comfortable and represents a superb period reflection of good design to live within the walls of good design.

Wrobleski designed his home in 1960 when he was just 20 years old. A former student of A. James Speyer at IIT, he created the residence to be elevated and in harmony with 1.75 acre lot located just outside of Chicago. Approaching the residence, you are greeted by a compliment of glass front to back within the fully see-through enclosure. Wrobleski’s home blossoms, trees appear to extend upward inside the house. The lines and the harmony of the interior naturally reflect the wooded surroundings. A short flight of stairs takes you to the entrance and once inside, you are naturally directed to the sunken living room nestled between the main glazing walls. There you are surrounded by an entirely global menu of design: Kjaerholm, Mies, Mackintosh, McCobb, Wegner and Aulenti for starters. The spread continues throughout the house. The furniture is utilitarian and comfortable and represents a superb period reflection of good design to live within the walls of good design. 

The exterior of Wrobleski's home illustrating an outdoor seating area. The sunken living room flanked by floor to ceiling glass. Photo by Juergen Nogai from Julius Shulman: Chicago Midcentury Modernism book by Gary Gand courtesy of Chicago Bauhaus & Beyond

Wrobleski’s deft ability to capture sunlight and warmth in his home is illustrated thoughtfully by Julius Shulman’s photography in Julius Shulman: Chicago Mid-Century Modernism by Gary Gand (2010). While I wish there was enough Wrobleski output to fill an entire monograph, we are proud to offer these lots for Don in our American Design sale.

Peter Jefferson

Take Wire. Add Poetry. With a bundle of wire (and years of thought), Harry Bertoia made a chair that has become a classic of our time. It is as intriguing to look at as a cobweb—and as brilliantly engineered. A child can lift it. A man can jump up and down on it. Inspiration and practical good sense came together here.

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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, 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.

The success of his chair designs for Knoll afforded Bertoia the means to pursue his artistic career and by the mid-1950s he was dedicated exclusively to his art. Using traditional materials in non-traditional ways, Bertoia created organic sculptural works uniting sound, form and motion. From sculptures sold to private buyers to large-scale installations in the public realm, Bertoia developed an artistic language that is at once recognizable but also uniquely his own.

Today Bertoia’s works can be found in various private and numerous public collections, including: The Art Institute of Chicago, Denver Art Museum, Milwaukee Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., Museum of Modern Art, New York, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

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Auction Results Harry Bertoia

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (Multi-Plane Construction) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (Multi-Plane Construction)
estimate: $500,000–700,000
result: $420,000

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (Sonambient) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (Sonambient)
estimate: $200,000–300,000
result: $408,000

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (Hanging Hemisphere) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (Hanging Hemisphere)
estimate: $200,000–300,000
result: $384,000

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (Monumental Sonambient) from the Standard Oil Commission | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (Monumental Sonambient) from the Standard Oil Commission
estimate: $400,000–600,000
result: $374,500

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (Dandelion) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (Dandelion)
estimate: $200,000–300,000
result: $348,000

HARRY BERTOIA, Untitled (Monumental Sonambient) from the Standard Oil Commission | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

Untitled (Monumental Sonambient) from the Standard Oil Commission
estimate: $300,000–500,000
result: $341,000

HARRY BERTOIA, Untitled (Sonambient) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

Untitled (Sonambient)
estimate: $200,000–300,000
result: $341,000

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (Dandelion) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (Dandelion)
estimate: $70,000–90,000
result: $300,000

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (Dandelion) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (Dandelion)
estimate: $150,000–200,000
result: $284,500

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (Dandelion) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (Dandelion)
estimate: $100,000–150,000
result: $278,500

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (Monumental Sonambient) from the Standard Oil Commission | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (Monumental Sonambient) from the Standard Oil Commission
estimate: $300,000–500,000
result: $278,500

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (Sonambient) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (Sonambient)
estimate: $300,000–400,000
result: $276,000

HARRY BERTOIA, Important and Monumental sculptures from Stemmons Towers, Dallas | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

Important and Monumental sculptures from Stemmons Towers, Dallas
estimate: $300,000–400,000
result: $263,000

HARRY BERTOIA, Untitled (Sonambient) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

Untitled (Sonambient)
estimate: $100,000–150,000
result: $227,000

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (monumental Sonambient) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (monumental Sonambient)
estimate: $200,000–300,000
result: $221,000

HARRY BERTOIA, Untitled (Monumental Sonambient) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

Untitled (Monumental Sonambient)
estimate: $200,000–300,000
result: $215,000

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (Tree Form) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (Tree Form)
estimate: $70,000–90,000
result: $192,000

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (Dandelion) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (Dandelion)
estimate: $200,000–300,000
result: $192,000

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (Dandelion) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (Dandelion)
estimate: $150,000–200,000
result: $185,000

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (Sonambient) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (Sonambient)
estimate: $180,000–220,000
result: $180,000

HARRY BERTOIA, Untitled (Bush Form) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

Untitled (Bush Form)
estimate: $50,000–70,000
result: $161,000

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (Sonambient) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (Sonambient)
estimate: $100,000–150,000
result: $158,500

HARRY BERTOIA, untitled (Welded Form) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

untitled (Welded Form)
estimate: $150,000–200,000
result: $156,000

HARRY BERTOIA, Untitled (Cloud Form) | wright20.com

Harry Bertoia

Untitled (Cloud Form)
estimate: $150,000–200,000
result: $150,000