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EILEEN GRAY

Between 1926 and 1929, when she built the villa with her partner the architect Jean Badovici (1893-1956), the name of this holiday home they designed together was derived from the interlinking of their initials: E for Eileen, 10 for the J of Jean, 2 for the B of Badovici, 7 for the G of Gray, the name of the villa thus interweaves their initials.

EILEEN GRAY

(1878 - 1976)

9 August 1878. Kathleen Eileen Moray born at Brownswood Manor, in Ireland, in the County of Wexford, near Enniscorthy.

In 1900, her mother takes her to Paris to see the World Fair.

1901-02, she leaves for London where she attends the Slade School of Fine Arts, a painting school for high society youngsters. The following year she goes to Paris to study drawing and enrols at the Atelier Colarossi and later the Académie Jullian.

In 1905, Eileen returns to London to look after her mother. There she discovers Chinese lacquer work at D Charles’s restoration workshop where she is immediately taken on as an apprentice

In 1907, she moves into an 18th century apartment at 21 rue Bonaparte in Paris, which she was to keep until the end of her life.

In 1909, she travels to Morocco with Evelyn Wyld, a childhood friend, with the aim of learning how to make rugs in the da Silva Bruhns style. Shortly afterwards she sets up her Parisian workshop in rue Visconti.

In 1913, she exhibits her lacquer work at the Salon des Artistes décorateurs (SAD).

In 1914, the couturier Jacques Doucet buys her four-panelled screen ’Le destin’, and subsequently orders various items of furniture.

In 1920, during a journey to Mexico, Eileen visits Teotihuacan (a plan of which was to feature in one of her Mediterranean houses.)

In 1922, she opens her boutique, the gallery Jean Désert, at 217, rue du Faubourg-Sant-Honoré in Paris, opposite the Salle Pleyel. Exhibiting her work at the Autumn Salon she meets Robert Mallet-Stevens who orders a rug and some furniture for the Villa des Noailles he was building at Hyères.

In 1923, she is invited to the 14th exhibition of the Society of Decorators where she presents Bedroom for Monte Carlo (or Hall 1922). The same year Léonce Rosenberg submits to the Galerie de l’Effort Moderne an exhibition devoted to Dutch architecture. This may have been when Eileen met the young architect of Romanian origin Jean Badovici.

In 1924, Pierre Chareau invites Eileen Gray to exhibit her work at his stand at the SAd. The Dutch periodical ’Wendingen’ (turning-points) which was close to the de Stijl movement, devotes an article to Eileen Gray with an introduction by Jan Wils and an article by Jean Badovici.

In 1926, 'House for an engineer’ forms just a part of her projected work. At Cap Martin, Roquebrune, she buys a plot of land in Badovici’s name and starts to work using models and plans. She studies topography, the sun’s trajectory and the direction of the winds.

In 1926-1929, she supervises work in progress on the building of her villa at Roquebrune Cap-Martin for which she has a few items of furniture sent down from her Jean Désert gallery. She designs new items for the villa, some of which are built into the walls. A gifted improviser, she designs some highly practical dual-function foldaway items. When his work as editor of his Paris-based periodical allows, Jean Badovici comes down to advise her. The villa is called E-1027: E for Eileen, 10 for the J of Jean as the 10th letter of the alphabet, 2 for the B of Badovici, and 7 for the G of Gray.

In 1930, following the 1929 economic crisis, she closes her boutiques (Jean Désert and rue Guénégaud). E-1027 gets top billing in the very first issue of L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui.

In 1932, along the road to Castellar in the Alpes Maritimes, Eileen Gray, this time without Badovici’s help, starts work on a second house, ’a house of her own’, which takes two years to complete.

In 1934, she designs furniture for this house which she has just completed.

In 1937, she submits to Le Corbusier’s ’Au pavillon des Temps nouveaux’ her design for a holiday and leisure centre incorporating prefabricated and knock-down bungalows.

In the years 1946-1947, Eileen Gray turning her attention to the problems of the time, starts work on a cultural and social centre and draws up a project for a Workers’ Club

In 1956, Jean Badovici dies in Monaco.

In 1960, Villa E-1027 is sold to Mrs Schelbert, a relative of Le Corbusier whom he brought over from Switzerland.

In 1972 the screen Le Destin from Jacques Doucet’s collection is auctioned off at Drouot’s for a record price, helping Eileen Gray and her work to be rediscovered. She is named Royal Designer for Industry in England

In 1973, RiBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) organises a retrospective of her work in London, an itinerant  exhibition is held in the United States and she is elected Honorary Fellow in Ireland.

On 31 October 1976, Eileen Gray dies in Paris.

In 1999, Villa E-1027 becomes a listed building

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