EILEEN GRAY (1878 - 1976)
Eileen Gray was born on August 9, 1878 in Brownswood, Ireland, her family’s residence in the county of Wexford. Gray was the youngest of five children. From 1898 until 1902 Eileen Gray studied at the “Slade School of Art“ in London. Afterwards Gray left the United Kingdom and moved to Paris. In 1922, Eileen Gray took part in the exhibition called Union des Artistes Modernes. This paved the way for Eileen Gray’s entry into the Parisian art scene of the early 20th century.
Eileen Gray started her career with contemporary designs of exclusive lacquer furniture. Later on Gray met the Rumanian architect Jean Badovici. Badovici was the editor of the magazine “L´Architecture Vivante“ and he was well networked in the design scene at that time. In the following years, Eileen Gray also met important figures like Fernand Léger, Le Corbusier or Gerrit Rietveld.
However, Eileen Gray never managed to catch up with the big stars of the design scene. Although her designs caused quite a stir from time to time, Gray sold them rather sluggishly and in very small numbers. At this time Eileen Gray was leading a very secluded life in Paris or near Menton.
It was only at the end of the 20th century, after Eileen Gray’s death, that her extraordinary designs received the attention they deserved. Precisely because many of Gray’s original designs are still individual pieces or objects that have been produced in relatively small numbers, Gray’s furniture achieve top prices at auctions today: so in spring 2009, within the scope of the legendary estate auction of Yves Saint Laurent, the Eileen Gray design of an armchair, “Fauteuil aux Dragons” from 1917/19, was handed over to the highest bidder for almost 22 million Euros. This was the highest sum that has ever been paid for a design classic of the 20th century!
Today, Eileen Gray’s furniture are produced and sold under license in different series and new editions by the premium manufacturer ClassiCon. In the meantime, Gray’s designs are ranked among the top design classics of the 20th century.
Eileen Gray died at the remarkable age of 98 on October 31, 1976.