Harry Bertoia's Diamond Chair has a unique place in contemporary design. Instantly recognisable as a mid-century modern piece, the delicate form of the Diamond Chair retains a futuristic feel more than 50 years after its debut.
Bertoia famously said he wanted his best-known work to seem as if it was "made of air, like a sculpture". Space, he said, passes right through the Diamond Chair.
The chair was created for Elizabeth Knoll in 1952 and is still available in the Knoll furniture range today. Harry Bertoia's approach is evident in its design: he welded pieces of metal together experimentally, working from ideas in his head, rather than beginning with drawings.
If the Diamond Chair has a suggestion of Eames about it, that may be no accident. After arriving in the US from Italy as a teenager in the 1930s and learning how to make jewellery, the young Bertoia won a scholarship to the renowned Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, where he met Charles Eames.
They become close friends, so close that Bertoia designed the wedding rings when Ray and Charles Eames married.
While at Cranbrook, Bertoia also encountered Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. The Diamond Chair, for all its sinuous shape, has no excess of style, and in this it follows the form follows function ethos of the Bauhaus.
Bertoia went on to create a series of public sound sculptures. As a piece of domestic sculpture we'd say the Diamond Chair has few equals.
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