Eileen Gray was a pioneer in modern design and architecture, and one of the few women to practice professionally in those fields before World War II.

Born into a distinguished, upper-class household in Ireland in 1878, Gray spent her childhood between her family home, Brownswood House, in Ireland, and the family’s residence in the South Kensington district of London. In her early twenties she studied at the Slade School of Art in London, where she met artists Wyndham Lewis, Kathleen Bruce, Jessie Gavin, and Jessica Dismorr. Gray also developed at this time an interest in traditional Asian lacquer and studied briefly with Charles Dean, of whom little is known. By 1902, Gray tired of the London scene and moved to Paris to continue her art training at the Académie Colarossi and Académie Julian. By 1910, Gray and her fellow Slade School friend, Evelyn Wyld, established a workshop to produce carpets and wall hangings. Gray also continued her study of traditional lacquer with Japanese craftsman Seizo Sugawara, with whom she formed a successful partnership. In 1922, she opened her Paris shop, Galerie Jean Désert, at 217, rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, where she sold furniture and rugs. The Galerie also served as an exhibition space for modern art, making Gray, albeit working under a male pseudonym, one of the first women gallerists. During this period, Gray also offered interior design services, and her facility with architectural space was evident in the environments she designed for clients such as Juliette Lévy, the Maharajah of Indore, Jacques Doucet, and others. Gray’s rugs demonstrated her creativity with geometric forms, and by the early 1920s, she was designing furnishings in tubular metal and other modern materials. From the 1920s onward, and throughout the rest of her life, Gray produced architectural projects for private and public commissions, including homes for her own use in France: E 1027 (1926–29) in RoquebruneCap-Martin, Tempe a Pailla (1931–34) in Menton, and Villa Lou Pérou (1954–58) in St. Tropez. In 1976, Eileen Gray died in Paris at the age of 98.

Virtual Eileen Gray Exhibition

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With this online companion to Bard Graduate Center Gallery’s Eileen Gray exhibition, we invite you to click the featured images to explore many different aspects of Gray’s career, from her celebrated projects to many lesser-known and recently rediscovered pieces on display for the first time.

Born Kathleen Eileen Moray Smith-Gray in 1878 in Ireland, the woman who came to be known simply as Eileen Gray was one of the twentieth century’s most accomplished designer-architects whose artistic practice also included painting and photography. Today she is recognized as a pioneering woman in what was the predominantly male field of modern architecture.

Unreleased Interview with Eileen Gray, 1973