Small Diamond chair, model 421-1. Designed by Harry Bertoia (Italian, 1915–1978), upholstery designed by Antoinette Lackner Webster (Toni Prestini) (American, 1909–1998). Manufactured by Knoll Associates, Inc. United States, ca. 1957. Plastic-coated wire, cotton upholstery, foam rubber, 77.5 × 88.9 × 74.9 cm (30 1⁄2 in. × 35 in. × 29 1⁄2 in.). Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of the Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture, 2011-22-1. Photo: Matt Flynn

Known primarily as a sculptor, Harry Bertoia designed the Small Diamond chair for Knoll between 1950 and 1952. During that time, rather than do conventional design research, Bertoia conceived of a series of side chairs and lounge chairs for mass production, made of wire mesh formed into seating shells. According to Bertoia, “In the chairs, many functional problems have to be satisfied first. . . but when you get right down to it the chairs are studies in space, form, metal too. . . . If you will look at these chairs, you will find that they are mostly made of air, just like sculpture. Space passes right through them." The curves and contours of the model 421-1 seem to embrace the sitter. This example is distinguished by its coated wire frame and blue Prestini upholstery, a cotton plain weave Knoll named for the textile designer, Antoinette Lackner Webster (Toni Prestini). This chair was included in the recent Bard Graduate Center exhibition Knoll Textiles, 1945-2010, and comes as part of a gift of Knoll textiles and furniture made possible by Bard curator Earl Martin, a graduate of the Master’s Program in the History of Decorative Arts and Design run by Cooper-Hewitt and Parsons The New School for Design.

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