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Italian sculptor, university lecturer and furniture designer Harry Bertoia was an inventor of form and an enricher of furniture design with his introduction of a new material: he turned industrial wire rods into a design icon. Harry Bertoia’s 1950 experiment with bending metal rods into practical art produced a revered collection of seating, including the exquisite Diamond chair. Bertoia used techniques he was familiar with from gold work and sculpting with iron wire. Innovative, comfortable and strikingly handsome, the chair’s delicate filigree appearance belies its strength and durability. In Bertoia’s own words, “If you look at these chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture. Space passes through them.” Bertoia found sublime grace in an industrial material, elevating it beyond its normal utility into a work of art.
Harry Bertoia displayed a unique stroke of genius with his patented Diamond chair for furniture producer Knoll International in 1952. Bertoia’s series consists of a small and large version of the “Diamond Chair,” a “Diamond Chair” with an extended back, a foot stool, a children’s chair, two other chairs, and a bar stool. Knoll marketed these pieces, which were suited for indoor and outdoor use, first in painted black metal and later with a black or white plastic coating, as well as in chrome and with removable pads.
The structure of the “Diamond Chair” clearly separates the different functions of the chair: the transparent wire shell is bent out of a quadratic lattice into an organically shaped diamond like a net frozen in space, and the base of round iron embraces it like a polished diamond. The “Diamond Chair” was designed to be viewed from all sides like a sculpture and thus fits perfectly into the elegant, sparsely furnished interiors of the fifties.