In this sculpture, spindly copper branches radiate from the bronze base, each branch terminating in a small bud.

Harry Bertoia

American, 1915–1978

Bush, 1967

Welded bronze

8 x 8 x 8 inches

 

SOLD

When Harry Bertoia immigrated to the United States from San Lorenzo, Italy in 1930, he witnessed and participated in an energetic movement in art fueled by the country’s rapid modernization. With his family, Bertoia first settled in Detroit, and attended the renowned Cass Technical High School and later the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts. In 1937, Bertoia obtained a teaching scholarship at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, the progressive school founded by Detroit newspaper magnate George Gough Booth and Ellen Scripps Booth. The school’s curriculum was centered on the unification of fine and applied arts, a European model most clearly defined at the German Bauhaus. Cranbrook was a hotbed of American modernism, fostering the careers of Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, and Florence Knoll.

Metal was Bertoia’s preferred medium throughout his career, yet he constantly innovated and challenged the properties of the various metals with which he worked. He first created wire and platform sculptures, and then worked on larger panels and architectural screens that were seamlessly interwoven into interior settings. Around mid-century, Bertoia created spherical and ovoid-shaped plants, trees, and flowers—natural forms he observed from his studio in rural Pennsylvania. Using welded bronze, brass, copper, and gold-plated steel, the deliberately ambiguous sculptures reflect Bertoia’s interest in organicism. Bertoia continued to produce these forms during the 1960s and 1970s with variations in scale, foliation, and patina. In the present work, Bush, 1967, spindly copper branches radiate from the bronze base, each branch terminating in a small bud. The sparse concentration of rods allow for ample light to pass through the spherical bush, revealing Bertoia’s interest in void and matter. Bertoia gave the small table-top sculpture to his life-long friend and fellow Cranbrook alumnus David Benton Runnells, a Kansas City architect and city planner. Runnells studied with Eliel and Eero Saarinen at Cranbrook in 1940, during which time Bertoia was head of the metals department. The work is a masterful example of Bertoia’s exploration of texture and dimension found in nature and translated into metal.

In this sculpture, spindly copper branches radiate from the bronze base, each branch terminating in a small bud.