EILEEN GRAY – Architect of Ireland
Kathleen Eileen Moray Gray (August 9, 1878 – October 31, 1976) was one of the first initiators of the International Style aesthetic. She was an Irish furniture designer and architect. She started to embark her design career at Slade School of Design in London.
Eventually, she found herself exposed to the workshop of D. Charles. He was a painter whose expertise was in lacquer application. Under his guidance, she acquired a fascination with the use of lacquer and its relevance to furnishings.
Paris was a haven for the creative and performing artists, writers, philosophers and scientists. This is where Grey continued her studies in design in 1902. Grey chanced upon a lacquer repair shop in 1905 during her London trip. It was there where she experienced an epiphany that would changed her creative life.
She returned to Paris armed with new tools and additional knowledge associated with a master craftsman of lacquer – Sugiwara-san and from there, created innovative new furniture and accessory designs with arresting colors and discreet shapes. Grey got bored with the graceful, leafy lines of the Art Nouveau movement.
This led to a creative expression which is linked closely to the De Stijl movement; meaning clean lines with simple and effortless forms. The outcome was very eye-catching. In the course of developing her own unique style of aesthetic, it took Grey six years to muster up the courage to have her works exhibited in Paris. Jacque Doucet, a prominent couturiere was in the exhibit and engaged her to embellish and furnish his place.
The elites in society began hiring her and in 1922, she launched the Jean Desert Gallery. This gallery is situated in chic Rue Fauburg St. Honore. This allowed Grey to parade her furniture, lamps and screens. Being featured in a Dutch magazine, having another exhibit and being given great compliments by Walter Gropius, Mallet Stevens, and Le Corbusier gave Grey the guts to try architecture.
Studying rigorously at the Roquebrune on the Mediterranean coast for four years enabled Grey to furnish, create and design an abode for herself. She constantly tried and experimented with fresh ideas and new materials despite her diminishing eyesight and hearing from the fifties onwards. Grey converted a hayloft near St. Tropez into a summer residence where she stayed and continued her work till the age of eighty.
She was given honor by displaying her most meaningful and significant works at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris – this was shortly before her death. Grey’s works, till this day, lives on, and is given so much importance and value.
The interior design and architectural communities’ appreciation for her art is overwhelming and her contribution is well received.