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Home About Designers Eileen Gray
Eileen Gray PDF Print E-mail
* 9th of August 1878 in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland
† 31st of October 1976
Eileen Gray is born into a wealthy Irish family growing up at the family estate Brownswood in the Irish county of Wexford. She reaches the biblical age of 98 years.
At 20 years old, she moves to London and studies at the Slade School of Fine Art. In parallel, she works at a furniture-making workshop, where she becomes acquainted with Asian lacquers which become a great inspiration for her.
At the turn of the century, Eileen Gray visits Paris for the first time and between 1902 and 1905 she attends courses at the École Colarossi and the Académie Julian.
The private academies of art become an alternative to the government-sponsored École des Beaux Arts which in the eyes of many promising young artists, at the time, is far too conservative.
In 1907, Eileen Gray moves to Paris at Rue Bonaparte 21. A flat where she would live in for the rest of her life. From the Japanese artisan Seizo Sougawara, Eileen Gray learns Japanese lacquer techniques.
Around 1910, Eileen Gray starts making lacquered folding screens.
In 1913, she first shows her works at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs, where she steals the attention of the couturier and art collector Jacques Doucet, who becomes Eileen Gray's first important sponsor.
In 1919, Eileen Gray is requested by Madame Mathieu Lévy to design the entire interior of her flat at Rue de Lota. Speaking of Rue de Lota, five years later she designs for the flat of Susanne Talbot also in Rue de Lota her famous Lota Sofa, which reflects Eileen Gray's change from the Decó to more severe forms.
In 1922, Eileen Gray opens the Galerie Jean Désert, where she exhibits and sells her lacquered tables and screens. In the 1920s, Eileen Gray will be influenced from the Dutch avant-garde group De Stijl and their abstract geometric works.
Eileen Gray shows her project “sleeping room-boudoir for Monte Carlo” in 1923 at Salon des Artistes Décorateurs. In France, this project is criticized, while on the other hand the Dutch avant-garde group loves it. That same year, she visits an exhibition of Dutch designers in The Netherlands and is highly impressed. At that same time, she meets and falls in love with Romanian descent Jean Badovici, architect and editor of an important architecture magazine “L’Architecture Vivante”. He encourages Eileen Gray to take her chance also in architecture. His surroundings include important designer and architects such as Fernand Léger, Gerrit Rietveld and Le Corbusier.
From 1926 until 1929, Eileen Gray and Badovici design their own house in Roquebrune, the E-1027. The codename stands for the names of the couple: E for Eileen, 10 for Jean (the tenth letter of the alphabet), 2 for Badovici and 7 for Gray. Eileen Gray designs some very modern furniture for the house including the world famous Adjustable Table E-1027 with a circular glass top and tubular steel frame.
Exemplary for her style, this design is the combination of space and benefit of the furniture becoming an essential part of architecture. This is visible in a lot her built-in furniture in harmony with single standing furniture. Always allowing the combination of a functional and variable use of both, the house and the furniture.
In 1930/31, Eileen Gray designs furniture for Jean Badovici's flat.
Their house "Tempe e Pailla" is built in 1934 at Castellar.
In 1937, Eileen Gray exhibits her work at Le Corbusier's "Pavillon des Temps Nouveau". After that and for the next years almost nothing is heard about Eileen Gray.
In 1970, the American art collector Robert Walker discovers former lacquered works which have fallen in oblivion. The interest in her works is once more awakened and her important performances for the Modern Art of the 20th century will be appreciated adequately.
Her most famous designs include the Adjustable Table E-1027, one of the most pictured design objects in the world, the Occasional Tables, the Folding Table Jean, the Daybed, the Bibendum Armchair, the Monte Carlo Sofa, the Lota Sofa, the Non Conformist Chair, the Roquebrune Chair and the Tubelight Lamp.