Sculpture, Furniture and Jewelry of Harry Bertoia on View at Michener Art Museum

DOYLESTOWN, PA –The Michener Art Museum is presenting an exhibition of sculpture, furniture, jewelry and monoprints by Harry Bertoia July 20 through October 13, 2013.

“I am delighted to add Harry Bertoia to our community of artists by curating Harry Bertoia: Structure and Sound,” says Michener Director & CEO Lisa Tremper Hanover. “Bertoia was a colleague to many of the craft and design artists held in our collection so there is a great synergy between his work and our holdings.”

Born in Italy, Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) was a resident of Barto, Pennsylvania, where he created his well-known sonambient or tonal sounding sculptures and designed furniture for Knoll, Inc.

His early studies in printmaking and metalworking at the Cranbrook Academy of Art informed his work throughout his career. Drawing, too, was an important part of the artist’s creative process, and many of his compositions articulate his planning and experimentation for sculpture.
In 1950, at the invitation of the Knoll furniture design company, he moved to eastern Pennsylvania and designed, among other pieces, the Bertoia Diamond Chair series, which became part of the modern furniture movement.

The tonal is the sculpture that is most often associated with Harry Bertoia. Sizes vary from a few inches up to 19 feet. Steel, copper and brass were the common metals used for the rods, which are capped with cylinders or drops of metal. These features, by their weight, influence the swaying of the tonal rods and the tenor of sound they emit.

Bertoia’s home and studio, including a barn space installation of 75 tonals of varying heights, is still maintained by his son, artist Val Bertoia. He occasionally arranges symphonic musical performances. Album recordings made by Harry Bertoia will be included in the installation so that the visitor will leave with a sensory as well as aesthetic experience.
Bertoia also explored jewelry making, crafting organic forms of silver and copper. Many of these one-of-a-kind pieces were exhibited through the Nierendorf Gallery in New York which also supported the artist with a stipend so he could continue his printwork and jewelry.

From 1953 to 1978, Harry Bertoia created more than 50 large public commissions, engaged by architects Eero Saarinen, Henry Dreyfuss, Roche & Dinkeloo, Minoru Yamasaki, Edward Durell Stone, I M Pei and others. He was awarded the AIA Craftsmanship Award in 1956 and the Critic’s Award in 1968.

Monoprints and jewelry, on loan from Celia Bertoia, the artist’s daughter, furniture, and tonal and static sculptures borrowed from several public and private collections will comprise the installation. Lenders include the Reading Public Museum, Knoll, Inc., the Woodmere Art Museum, and the Philip & Muriel Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College.

Special exhibition lectures:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013, 1 to 3 pm, independent scholar Mary Thorp will give an overview lecture on Harry Bertoia. While he is well-known for his 1952 Diamond Chair, he also worked with major architects of the 20th century. Thorp has been cataloguing Bertoia sculptures, organizing exhibitions and lecturing on his work at auction houses, museums and universities since 1998.

Friday, October 4, 2013, 2 to 3 pm, Celia Bertoia, daughter of the artist, will discuss Bertoia’s work and life. Touch the jewelry, see the monoprints, and feel the power of the man as she guides you to experience the world through a great visionary’s eyes. She will describe his techniques as well as tell behind-the-scenes stories only a family member could know. Celia Bertoia, a published author, is working on a biography of her father.

The James A. Michener Art Museum is located at 138 South Pine St., Doylestown, Pa. Museum hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm; Saturday 10 am to 5 pm; Sunday noon to 5 pm. Admission: Members and children under 6, free; adults $15; seniors $13; college student with valid ID $11; ages 6-18 $7.50; under 6 free. For more information, visit or call 215-340-9800.