Harry Bertoia, an Italian-American sculptor, university lecturer and furniture designer, created The Diamond Chair in 1952 for the firm Knoll International. It comprises of a series containing a small and large version of the chair, a chair with an raised back and a footstall, a child’s chair and a bar chair. The Knoll website refers to them as the ‘wire collection’, and this post illustrates the classic Diamond Chair, The Bird Chair and The Side Chair from this collection. The chairs are sculptural, sturdy and functional; they are surprisingly comfortable and supportive.
Most chairs in the mid twentieth century were made of wood, so it was relatively novel that a chair like Bertoia’s Diamond Chair was made with steel. This technique of using steel was familiar to Bertoia due to his experimental work as a sculptor. The fluid lines of the bent metal are pleasing to the eye and unusual in furniture design.
The chairs holds an interesting shape from all sides. Although wide, the spaces between the wires give it a quality of lightness and airiness, so it doesn’t seem to impose upon a space. This makes it an appropriate chair for a small or minimalist room.
A version of the Diamond Chair, The Bird Chair, appears in the images of a domestic interior designed and curated by architect Colin Beales and his first wife Ann for ‘Woman’s Journal’, 1959. This interior was on show at Newberry & Spindler, 43-45 Park Street, Bristol. It was an appropriate place to showcase the installation because ‘Woman’s Journal’ described Newberry & Spindler as having a “vigorous approach to modern home furnishing”. Some of the photographs that appeared in ‘Woman’s Journal’ are on display in The Beales Bequest exhibition, currently on show at The Ken Stradling Collection.
A Bertoia Side Chair appears in several of Jennifer’s Beales etchings of her and Colin’s garden. One of these etchings is on display at The Beales Bequest. Jennifer and Colin Beales had two of these chairs, which they used constantly. These chairs also seemed like iconic garden sculptures in their own right and were a defining feature of the Beales’s garden and home.
The Beales Bequest will be open to view every Wednesday 10 – 4pm and by appointment until 11th March.
Go to the Collection website at www.stradlingcollection.org for more information about the Collection and for details of upcoming exhibitions and how to visit us in Bristol.