|Birth Day:||August 9, 1878|
|Death Date:||Oct 31, 1976 (age 98)|
As per our current Database, Eileen Gray died on Oct 31, 1976 (age 98).
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She trained as a painter at University College London's Slade School of Fine Art.
Gray was born Kathleen Eileen Moray Smith on 9 August 1878, near Enniscorthy, in County Wexford, Ireland. She was the youngest of five children in a Protestant Anglo-Irish family.
Gray's mother, Eveleen Pounden, was a granddaughter of Francis Stuart, 10th Earl of Moray. She became the 19th Baroness Gray in 1895 after the death of her uncle. Although the couple was already separated by this point, Gray's father changed his name to Smith-Gray by royal licence and the four children were from then on known as Gray.
Gray's serious art education began in 1900 at the Slade School in London. Gray was a registered fine arts student at Slade from 1900 to 1902. Although fine arts education was typical for a young woman of Gray's class, Slade was an unusual choice. Known as a bohemian school, the classes at Slade were generally co-educational which was usual for the time. Gray was one of 168 female students in a class of 228.
While at Slade, Gray met furniture restorer Dean Charles in 1901. Charles was Gray's first introduction to lacquering and she took lessons in the technique from his company in Soho.
In 1902, Gray moved to Paris with Kathleen Bruce and Jessie Gavin. They enrolled at the Académie Colarossi, an art school popular with foreign students, but soon switched to the Académie Julian.
In 1905, Gray returned to London to be with her ill mother. For the next two years, she studied lacquering with Dean Charles before returning to Paris. When she returned to Paris, Gray began training with Seizo Sugawara. Sugawara was from Jahoji, a village in northern Japan famous for its lacquer work, and he was in Paris to restore the lacquer pieces Japan had sent to the Exposition Universale. Gray was so dedicated to learning the trade that she suffered the so-called lacquer disease, a painful rash on her hands, but that did not stop her from working.
In 1910, Gray opened a lacquer workshop with Sugawara. By 1912, she was producing pieces to commission for some of Paris's richest clients.
After the war Gray and Sugawara returned to Paris. In 1917, Gray was hired to redesigning the Rue de Lota apartment of society hostess Juliette Lévy. Also known as Madame Mathieu Levy, Juliette owned the fashion house and millinery shop.
In 1919 the 10th Salon des Artistes Decorateurs featured inexpensive postwar furniture. The goal of the Salon des Artistes was to reconstruct Paris and erase the scars of the war left on the country. In its efforts, multiple artists sought to reestablish that Paris was still the "Intellectual capital of the world". During this post-war reconstruction the push for modernization was ever-more evident. This exhibition was made in an attempt to endorse new arts of the French renaissance, stepping up to German designers. Gray Participated in the exhibition however her works were not recorded. In 1920 Harper's Bazar , an article dedicated to keeping record of Gray's Lacquer work stated "Laquer Walls and Furniture Displace Old Gods in Paris and London."
By 1921, Gray was romantically involved with Romanian architect and writer Jean Badovici who was 15 years her junior. He encouraged her growing interest in architecture. From 1922/1923 to 1926 Gray created an informal architectural apprenticeship for herself as she never received any formal training as an architect. She studied theoretical and technical books, took drafting lessons, and arranged to have Adrienne Gorska take her along to building sites. She also traveled with Badovici to study key buildings and learned by reworking architectural designs.
The critical and financial success of the project prompted Gray to open her own shop in 1922. Jean Désert was located on the fashionable Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris. The shop was named after an imaginary male owner “Jean” and Gray's love of the North African desert. Gray designed the facade of the shop herself. Jean Désert sold the abstract geometric rugs designed by Gray and woven in Evelyn Wyld's workshops. Clients included James Joyce, Ezra Pound and Elsa Schiaparelli.
He had written about her design work in 1924 and encouraged her interest in architecture. Their romantic involvement ended in 1932.
In 1926, she started work on a new holiday home near Monaco to share with Badovici. Because a foreigner in France couldn't wholly own property, Gray bought the land and put it in Badovici's name, making him her client on paper. Construction of the house took three years and Gray remained on site while Badovici visited occasionally.
Jean Désert closed due to financial losses in 1930.
Gray and Badovici broke up and in 1931 Gray started work on a new house, Tempe à Pailla, above the nearby town of Menton. The name Tempe à Pailla is translated into English as "Time and Hay" and references a Provençal proverb that say both are needed for figs to ripen. It was a small two bedroom house with a large terrace. Much of the furniture was transformable, including expandable wardrobes and a dining banquette that both folded for storage and could be turned into an occasional table. With Tempe à Pailla, Gray moved away from Le Corbusier's free plan ideal and created more separate spaces while maximizing the house's panoramic views. Gray's design also maximized airflow and natural light with features such as shuttered windows and skylights. Gray's multi-level kitchen was influenced by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky's Frankfurt Kitchen.
Gray's intermittent relationship with the singer Damia ended in 1938, after which they never saw each other again, although both lived into their nineties in the same city. Gray also had for some time an intermittent relationship with Jean Badovici, the Romanian architect and writer.
Renewed interest in Gray's work began in 1967 when historian Joseph Rykwert published an essay about her in the Italian design magazine Domus. After the publishing of the article many "students began to ring at her door" as eager to learn from the now famous designer.
The first retrospective exhibition of her work, titled ‘Eileen Gray: Pioneer of Design’, was held in London in 1972. A Dublin exhibition followed the next year. At the Dublin exhibit, the 95 year old Gray was given an honorary fellowship by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland.
In 1973 Gray signed a contract to reproduce the Bibendum chair and many of her pieces for the first time. They remain in production.
Eileen Gray died on Halloween 1976. She is buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, but because her family omitted to pay the licence fee her grave is not identifiable.
In February 2009, Gray's "Dragons" armchair made by her between 1917 and 1919 (acquired by her early patron Suzanne Talbot and later part of the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé collection) was sold at auction in Paris for €21.9 million (US$28.3 million), setting an auction record for 20th-century decorative art.
Le Corbusier often stayed at E-1027 and although he admired it, in 1938/1939 he vandalized its walls with Cubist murals of naked women. This violated Gray's express wish that E-1027 be free of any decoration. In 2013, The Observer critic Rowan Moore called it an “act of naked phallocracy” by a man asserting “his dominion, like a urinating dog, over the territory”, the nature of this "spasm of comic brutality" being "hotly debated" as "an act of vandalism... infringement of the original architect's intellectual property... a bravura improvement" or "just plain snobbery and sexism".
A biopic on Gray's life called The Price of Desire opened in 2016.
Currently, Eileen Gray is 143 years, 9 months and 18 days old. Eileen Gray will celebrate 144th birthday on a Tuesday 9th of August 2022.
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