Eileen Gray’s (1878 – 1976) was an Irish architect and furniture designer who became a pioneer of the Modern Movement in architecture.
Eileen Gray’s early life was divided between London and her artistic pursuits. She shattered norms by joining the Slade School in 1898, becoming one of its pioneering female students, immersing herself in painting. Her trajectory shifted towards lacquer work during an apprenticeship in a London workshop, profoundly impacting her when she moved to Paris in 1902. Adept in lacquer and cabinet making, she swiftly rose to prominence in designing cherished lacquered screens and art deco decorative panels. Her daring presentation of a stark white lacquered boudoir at the 1923 Salon des Artistes Décorateurs even incited a riot.
Opening her gallery, Jean Désert, on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in 1922, Gray’s designs blossomed. In the 1920s and 1930s, she led in revolutionary design and construction theories. Collaborating with luminaries like Le Corbusier and J.J.P Oud, she introduced chrome, steel tube, and glass furniture in 1925, predating notable names like Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer. Her contemporary-feeling interior designs, exemplified by her acclaimed 1922 creation for Madame Mathieu-Lévy, endure.
Gray extended her impact into architecture. Encouraged by Le Corbusier and J.J.P Oud, she crafted two Alpes Maritimes houses: Roquebrune (1926-1929) and Castellar (1932-1934), embodying domestic architecture and interior design purity. Amid inter-war years, her “Centre des Vacances” project graced Le Corbusier’s Pavilion des Temps Nouveaux at the 1937 Paris International Exhibition. Post-war until her 1976 passing, Gray’s creative drive persisted, with major projects like the Cultural and Social Centre (1946-1949) and collaborative global recognition of her designs with Zeev Aram. Notably, the V&A collection and New York’s Museum of Modern Art hold her early works and iconic E1027 adjustable table. In 1972, the Royal Society of Arts celebrated her as a Royal Designer for Industry.