Eileen Gray was an Irish architect and designer who is widely known as the most influential and renowned woman in the modernism movement. The daughter of an Irish aristocrat and a painter, she began her career studying painting at London’s Slade School of Fine Art. In 1902, Gray moved to Paris and moved from painting and lacquer work to furniture and interior design. She opened her own gallery, using a man’s fictional name, in 1922 called the Galerie Jean Desert. She moved to explore architecture, and completed E1027 in 1929 when she was 51 years old. In her architecture and furniture pieces, she emphasized “a dwelling as a living organism,” focusing on functionality as much as modernism. In E1027, a water tank doubles as a shelter for an external dining area. In 1976, after 98 years of life, Grey passed away in Paris.
The curator of the first French retrospective exhibition of Eileen Gray, Cloe Pitiot, describes Eileen Gray as “an artist, a total creator, who expressed her sensibility in the spirit of… the total work of art.” Grey kept most of her life out of the public eye and even burned many of her personal records in her later years of life. Yet in 1973, when she was approached by Zeev Aram, the founder of the Aram furniture store, to put her rare furniture pieces into production, she was convinced. Gray worked with Aram until her death. Her designs with Aram are still available today on Aram’s website, www.aram.co.uk
Eileen Gray’s E1027, restored after wartime vandalism on Cote d’Azur:
A photo of the interior of E1027, which was later vandalized by the painter Le Corbusier, who believed a woman like Gray could be a significant modernist artist:
Non-conformist chair, an example of her ground-breaking work in chrome:
2013 exhibition of Eileen Gray at the Centre Pompidou in Paris: