He had left his north Italian birthplace in c.1930 and moved to the US and trained there in metalwork. In the 1940s, he worked closely with Charles and Ray Eames, contributing to their experiments in creating plywood furniture.
In the early 1950s, Bertoia joined Hans and Florence Knoll in Pennsylvania, where he started working on the production of metal wire chairs. There was competition between Bertoia and his former employer Eames, who produced his first wire chair in 1951.
As Eames had patented his design, Bertoia was forced to come up with a new concept, incorporating a single wire along the edge of the seat, in contrast to Eames’ use of two welded, slightly thinner wires. In 1952, Knoll presented Bertoia’s Diamond Chair, shaped – as the name implies – as a lozenge-formed lattice. They went on to become design classics, often copied and recreated.
Bertoia summed up their essence with his much-quoted description: “On close inspection it becomes clear that they are mostly made up of air. Space flows right through them.”
A pair of original Diamond Chairs complete with cushions, produced by Knoll before 1959, are on sale at Geble in Radolfzell on Lake Constance on April 24 with a reserve of €600.