Her ravishing interiors shocked Paris, thrilled the avant-garde and gave the world its most expensive chair. But the fast-living aristocrat wasnt just overlooked Le Corbusier actually vandalised her work naked
A room fit only for nightmares and insomnia. This was the response of one critic to Eileen Grays radical scheme for a bedroom in 1923, installed at the 14th Salon de la Socit des Artistes Dcorateurs in Paris. The Irish designers daring Boudoir for Monte Carlo was a shock to French tastes. Her zebra-wood divan stood before wall panels lacquered with abstract red and white shapes. It was flanked by two screens made of glossy white bricks, while a blue lantern dangled above a carpet swirling with further abstract squiggles. A chamber for the daughter of Dr Caligari in all its horrors, concluded another reviewer.
Despite all the abuse, Gray received an admiring postcard from JJP Oud, the leading architect of the Dutch De Stijl movement, who saw her installation pictured in a journal. I am highly interested and should like to see any more of your works, he wrote. I saw until now very few good modern interiors. In a PS, he added: Do you have any modern movement in your country?
You might think of 1920s Paris as being at the cutting edge of modern style, but it took the bedroom fantasy of an Irishwoman from County Wexford to catch the eye of the European avant garde. Her curious design is reproduced in a substantial new book from Yale University Press, published this month to accompany an exhibition on Gray at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery in New York which has now, like every other venue, been forced to close its doors. When it reopens, visitors will be treated to a collection of 200 objects, including never-before-exhibited furniture, lacquer works, architectural drawings and ephemera. Like the book, these paint a complex picture of Gray as a multifaceted creator.