November 17, 2021 11:00 EST

Modern and Contemporary Art

 
Lot 37
 

37

Harry Bertoia (American, 1915-1978)
Untitled (Study for Fiery Circle)

Brazed bronze and copper wire.
Executed c. 1960.

height: 26 in. (66cm)
width: 22 in. (55.9cm)
depth: 8 in. (20.3cm)

Provenance

Mangel Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Collection of Bob and Gabriele Lee, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (acquired directly from the above in 1985).
Property from the Estate of Gabriele Lee.

Sold for $107,100
Estimated at $50,000 - $70,000


 

Brazed bronze and copper wire.
Executed c. 1960.

height: 26 in. (66cm)
width: 22 in. (55.9cm)
depth: 8 in. (20.3cm)

Provenance

Mangel Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Collection of Bob and Gabriele Lee, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (acquired directly from the above in 1985).
Property from the Estate of Gabriele Lee.

Note

This lot is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Harry Bertoia Foundation, signed by Celia Bertoia, Director, and dated August 4, 2021 and will be included in the upcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.

Gabriele Lee bestowed an extraordinary legacy of collecting and philanthropy, whose lasting impact will be felt throughout the cultural fabric of the city of Philadelphia, when she passed away earlier this year at the age of 84. Mrs. Lee studied interior architecture and furniture design in Bielefeld, Germany and later began a career as an interior architect, notably designing showrooms for Knoll furniture in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. She later joined Vincent Kling Architects and taught interior design at Drexel University for a time. Her aesthetic eye, in partnership with her late husband Robert S. Lee, Sr.’s passion for collecting, collaborated to form a large and important collection of art and design that filled their Society Hill home. The couple designed their home with Stephen Varenhorst Architects, with Mrs. Lee taking an active role, to showcase their eclectic collection in the best light, both indoors and out.

In addition to collecting contemporary paintings, prints, sculpture, and design, as well as European and Pre-Columbian works, Mrs. Lee dedicated herself to supporting the arts in Philadelphia, as a board member of the opera, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, specifically the Fleisher Art Memorial and Collab, which promotes Modern and Contemporary Design. The Lee’s gracious home, with its outstanding collection, was the setting for lively gatherings and fundraisers that benefited these institutions, creating the perfect setting for a celebration of the arts and the city they so loved.

Two exquisite Harry Bertoia sculptures from the Lee Collection serve as a testament to the couple’s support of important 20th century designers, particularly those like Bertoia with deep Pennsylvania ties. The artist and designer displayed a larger version of the circular sculpture (Lot 37), entitled Fiery Circle, outdoors on his Pennsylvania property for decades. Created of thin bronze and copper wires brazed together, the work is a very rare and unusual form for Bertoia and is a testament to his ongoing experimentations with metal working techniques. The Untitled (Tonal Sound Sculpture) (Lot 38) stands as a quintessential Bertoia sonambient piece, with rich tonal quality as well as striking form. Both works exemplify Ms. Lee’s dedication to collecting fine design, as well as the solidity and power of Bertoia’s mature work.

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Harry Bertoia

Born in San Lorenzo, Italy, the innovative furniture designer Harry Bertoia was a student at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, where he founded the metalworking department. At Cranbrook, Bertoia was introduced to chair design when Eero Saarinen andCharles Eames won the Organic Furniture Design Competition; Bertoia and Eames began to work together in the 1940s, with much of the design of the now-famous Eames chairs created by Bertoia himselfalthough no recognition was rewarded. Bertoia moved to Pennsylvania in 1950, where he remained until his passing in 1978.Many Philadelphia and Pennsylvania collectors have a deep familiarity with Bertoia’s work because of his studio’s proximity to the city, naturally bringing both consignors and potential buyers to Freeman’s. Within Freeman’s long track record of presenting Bertoia’s work at auction, there are several standout successes, including the 2007 sale of Bertoia’s Sound Sculpture, which exceeded its pre-sale estimate by almost four times to achieve a remarkable $305,000. Sea Anemone (Bush), a small bronze sculpture, sold for $137,500 in 2016; a similar work, Untitled (Double Bush Form)achieved $125,000 in 2020.After moving to Pennsylvania and opening his studio, Bertoia began designing wire pieces that came to be known as the Bertoia Collection, including his famous Diamond Chair, produced from polished steel wirea major part of the mid-century modern furniture movement. His artistic output ranged widely; he was also a jewelry designer and printmaker. Later in his career, Bertoia became fascinated with the different textures and sounds he could create with metal by altering its length, shape, and density; he remains renowned for his later “sonambient” or sound sculpturesworks of varying sizes (some up to twenty feet tall) made of beryllium, copper, bronze, and brass, some topped with cattail-like cylinders. Bertoia would use these works to perform concerts and make albums; he also created sculptures in the form of bushes, dandelions, and sunbursts. Bertoia continued to craft these sculptures up until his death in 1978.