Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gray's Progress

The question is: should we listen to an artist's/designer's ideas? How much do their opinions count in our appraisal and appreciation of their work? Eileen Gray completely rejected the luxurious symbolist lacquer work of her early days (see my previous post). She had moved on to pioneer a more functional design style.
At the end of her life she "blamed" Doucet for encouraging her early elitist style.  
Do we have the right to appreciate, even prefer her early work? 
What do moral stand points have to do with her aesthetic judgement? 
Some might say it is just a matter of taste.
 Today many of her modernist designs are in production an sold throughout the world. For the record, I wished to show you a few of the designs she found acceptable -
lest she come back to haunt me for misrepresentation!
Above are the perhaps the two most known designs, the Bibendum chair and the E1027 adjustable table,
as sold today in the Bon Marché furniture department.

Eileen Gray named her tubby tubular chair Bibendum, after the Michelin tire man. (ad from lejournaldunet)  Right: Gray's sister liked to have breakfast in bed; the E1027 table was made with her in mind. A key secures the placement of the sliding table top.

The S chair is one of my favorites
- open -

and closed.

The Non-Conformist chair is the really funky one.  Ultra chic through the law of repetition in a restaurant or similar space, I imagine a right arm line-up facing the opposing left in chorus line precision.  But in a private space, one or two of these, interestingly placed (for me that means not in a chrome and glass jungle), and you have an element of interest for a collector in a Cabinet d'amateur.

photo Alain Irvine 1970

Because that is what it's all about, isn't it - the right mix? 
 Mlle Gray certainly  looks comfortable in her 18th century rue Bonaparte apartment that she furnished with her own modern designs, and she didn't feel it necessary to rip out the mantle or
replace the doors and mouldings.


  1. I am a fan of your ongoing Gray posts. It is interesting that she did not see a progression or evolution of her early work-rather than disdaining it? pgt

  2. I too love her S Chair, fabulous!! A mix is good and comfort a must!!

    Art by Karena

  3. I love the S chair, but wonder how does one gracefully (at 5'5") dis-incline? I think I am having nightmares about that. Loved the sense of humor about the Michelin guy. Can you imagine what kind of children/furniture might come a family tree of Michelin and the Pillsbury Dough Boy?

    On a serious thought, I think we, as with any art, have a right to enjoy her work on own terms.

  4. Je viens de découvrir ce blog qui est très intéressant et utile. J'aime beaucoup les fauteuils ci dessus.
    Je reviendrais souvent

  5. L.A.: Maybe she was quoted in a crotchety moment in her old age (she lived to 97)! I think her beliefs were so strong though that they had the impact of a religious conversion. She defined herself also by what she left behind.

    K: isn't it snazzy!

    HBD: Low slung seating might be even worse for the 6footers - going down!
    So right - we are fated to approach art on our own terms. Think of what we do with ceremonial statuary, works from primary cultures we don't always understand at all!

    TG: Merci et bienvenue!

  6. I wondered what you would say to that. However, I think there is a difference between liking whatever phase of an artist's life touches our whatever and ceremonial statuary that I would hope make us pause and consider the sacred. I move more to Jung than to Freud. And you?

  7. First, excuse me for taking a while to answer.
    I'm sure you guess my leanings!
    Yes, there is a big difference but I'm sure many respond formally -
    to the form - of objects without taking pause. There are so many art forms whose original impulse we can't begin to understand. As you suggest, maybe the great collective 'whatever' is tickled without defining itself. What I found slightly disturbing is to know something of the person behind the object and to trample her beliefs - even if I know I'm doing it and will do it time and time again! In any case, object and artwork are for me media through which we also tune in to other planes - personel, collective, or beyond. There are many frequencies to be expressed and pop is just as vital as complex orchestrations only our reception highly individualized. Just can't help questioning.

  8. Lovely thoughtful response. For me, child of the 60s that I am, the question is the answer. Your response above is exactly why you blog and why I love it. Happy weekend.

  9. I love those chairs! I think we should listen to an artist's opinion and them form our own decisions.

  10. HBD: Lets's both keep questioning and commenting! Lovely weekend!

    Patty: I agree. Thanks for your comment!

  11. Excellent post. So glad to have found your spot. K

  12. That building is goregous, The chair looks like the rails of a ladder bent, Great post.. Happy Easter.


  13. Yvonne:Interesting - I hadn't seen it like that. Happy Easter to you too!