The Screens of Harry Bertoia

Sculptural, decorative, and sublime

Harry Bertoia screen sculpture mid centiry modern art
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Above: The Bertoia screen / sculpture at the MIT Chapel designed by Eero Saarinen in 1955. 

I like to think of my work in this way: There are several kinds, and I like to think that each kind occupies a certain region in the cosmos, maybe the cosmos of my mind, but each work finds its proper environment in a region. And if you go far enough you could expand this region, cultivate it and it would become fruitful and do more… I regard nature as being the strongest influence.

– Harry Bertoia

Born in San Lorenzo, Pordenone, Italy, Harry Bertoia moved to Detroit when he was only 15 years old. After learning the language he enrolled in Cass Technical High School where he studied Art and design. But Bertoia’s big break came in 1937 when he received a scholarship to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where he encountered Walter Gropius, Edmund N. Bacon, Ray and Charles Eames, and Florence Knoll.

Click on image for full view and info
Harry Bertoia screen sculpture mid centiry modern art

A ‘Golden Rod’ screen designed by Harry Bertoia in the 1950’s. Photo: LA Modern

Perhaps best known to many as a furniture designer (his iconic ‘Diamond’ chair produced by Knoll is considered a modernist icon) Bertoia was also a prolific artist. After learning welding at Santa Monica City College in California in the late 1940s he began experimenting with wire and platform sculptures. These evolved into panels and screens which led to his early public pieces.

I would like to shine a light on some of these marvelous screens. Some are simple panel forms while other are mind-boggling intricate involving thousands of individual rods. But whatever the methodology they all are beautifully captivating works of art from a master. The Bertoia screens/sculptures are also much sought after with several of the works selling these days at auction for well in excess of six figures.

Some of the screen/sculptures created by Harry Bertoia. Click on image for full view and info

Harry Bertoia screen sculpture mid centiry modern art

Harry Bertoia (1915 – 1978) poses with model of his screen/sculptures, 1950’s. Photo: Knoll

The Sonambient sculptures of Harry Bertoia



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8 years ago

They look as timeless now as when they were created!