Eileen Gray (1878–1976), an Irish architect-designer who worked primarily in France, 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 in Ireland and educated in London, Gray proceeded to Paris where she opened a textile studio, studied the Japanese craft of lacquer that would become a primary technique in her design work, and owned and directed the influential gallery and store known as “Jean Désert.” Gray struggled for acceptance as a largely self-taught woman in male-dominated professions. Although she is now best known for her furniture, lighting, and carpets, she dedicated herself to many architectural and interior projects that were both personal and socially driven, including E 1027, the iconic modern house designed with Jean Badovici, as well as economical and demountable projects, such as the Camping Tent.

Essays in the exhibition catalogue are organized in three sections: “Beginnings,” which focuses on Gray’s early life and training; “Being a Designer,” which examines her career as a designer of furniture, rugs, and interiors; and “Being an Architect,” which responds to the prevailing question of whether Eileen Gray was an architect with a resounding “yes”. This section features more than 44 catalogue entries on Gray’s architectural work organized by typology. It focuses on the diversity of Gray’s design practices and elaborates on the range of her architectural projects. Edited by Cloé Pitiot and Nina Stritzler-Levine, the volume contains contributions by the editors, as well as by Renaud Barrès, Caroline Constant, Philippe Garner, Jennifer Goff, Anne Jacquin, Fréderic Migayrou, and Ruth Starr. It also features more than 200 illustrations, including reproductions of the archival materials presented in the exhibition, extensive texts on Gray’s design work, previously unpublished architectural drawings, a chronology documenting the key moments of Gray’s life and career, critical encounters, and her worldwide travels.


Cloé Pitiot is curator of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and contemporary design at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. Nina Stritzler-Levine is director of the gallery and curatorial affairs at the Bard Graduate Center, New York.

The exhibition Eileen Gray is on view at Bard Graduate Center Gallery from February 29 through July 12, 2020.