gray matters

Eileen Gray in her studio.  Courtesy National Museum of Ireland.

For many years I wanted to purchase the Eileen Gray adjustable table available for purchase at the MoMA store.  The price tag was always a deterrent. Thannks to the MoMA design galleries, Grey has always been on my radar.  In conjunction with the Eileen Gray exhibition at the Bard Graduate Center, a series of events have been organized. Saturday, the film “In Conversation with Eileen Gray” was screened.  The film is based on an audio recording made in 1973 when Gray (1878-1976) was 95.  The recording  made by Andrew Hodgkinson,(a design student at the time) was turned into a film by Michael Pitiot, who added the visuals (drawings by Gray) and the music.

The Eileen Gray Transat Chair was used as a deck chair at the famous villa E1027 at Roquebrune, France. Designed in 1927. The name Transat was used as an abbreviation for transatlantic referring to steamship travel. This photograph is from the exhibition at Bard Graduate Center

Gray was a pioneer in the world of design.  She established a workshop to produce carpets and wall hangings.  She studied traditional Japanese lacquer with a Seizo Sugawara in Paris.  She open a shop in Paris, Galerie Jean Desert, selling furniture and rugs.  Gray also designed a number of interiors during this period. The Galerie did not have her name, but a male pseudonym. This was an indication of what Gray thought necessary to succeed in business in 1922 in Paris.  In 1926 Gray started to work on designing a house (known as E-1017), without any formal training as an architect.

Eileen Gray design for a rug.

Eileen Gray, 1923, “Rocket” Lamp. Laquer, wood, painted parchment shade.

Eileen Gray, 1924, Table, oak, paint, sycamore. According to information accompanying this table at the exhibition: “Dutch De Stijl had a greater impact on Gray than other aspects of modernism in art, design and architecture in France. This table is a homage to the architects of De Stijl.

The audio recording (basis of the film) was made when Gray was 95. What is remarkable, although she suffered from Parkinson, her memory and sense of humor were very much intact.  When asked by Hodgkinson about the idea of figurative vs. abstract design for a carpet, Grey answered:  ” I don’t think I should like anything figurative to walk on.”  Her Galerie Jean Desert in Rue Saint Honore closed in 1930.  “The French are very slow to like anything modern.” Eileen Gray

Eileen Gray, Blue Marine Rug

Eileen Gray, 1927

Eileen Gray, 1914, Getty Images

Eileen Gray, approx. 1900

In his introduction to the film, Michael Pitot said what he was trying to do was “to make a movie with a voice”.  He succeeded.

The catalog from the show is on sale through the Bard Bookstore.

Eileen Gray
February 29 – July 12
Curated by Cloe Pitiot, curator of Art Nouveau, Art Deco and contemporary design at the Museee des Arts Decoratifs.
Organized by Centre Pompidou in Paris with collaboration with Bard Graduate Center
Nina Stritzler-Levine, Director of Bard Graduate Center Gallery and Curatorial Affairs at the Bard Graduate Center
Several other events are scheduled.
Check the Bard Website.


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