Harry Bertoia

American, 1915–1978

Conceptual Model for General 

Motors Tech Center Screen, 1953

Brass and nickel melt-coated steel 

10 x 16 x 2 inches

In addition to sculpture, Bertoia created furniture, jewelry, large-scale screens and fountains, architectural installations, and innovative sounding sculptures. Through it all, nature remained a primary inspiration. For example, he became fascinated with the placement of leaves on the trees in the woodlands surrounding his home and studio in rural Pennsylvania. As a result, he began experimenting with brass- and nickel-coated steel plates to simulate the brilliant luster of leaves, seen to stunning effect in the present work.

This work is a model for a 36-foot-long metal screen that architect (and Cranbrook colleague) Eero Saarinen asked Bertoia to design for the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. It was Bertoia’s first large-scale architectural commission, and it led to many more public commissions over the next two decades. While the study model was suspended from a wall, the completed full-scale design was a floor-mounted screen. It was a wonderful solution for the GM’s project: a combination of mechanics and nature-inspired design.