NEW DISCOVERIES

NEW DISCOVERIES

Among the wide variety of objects on display are several discoveries that reveal new aspects of Eileen Gray’s life and work. Look closely below at the intricate details of an early figurative lacquer panel. Other objects exhibited for the first time include a tea table that highlights Gray’s skills in lacquer, a previously unknown drawing of an interior she designed in 1923, and furniture designed for her most famous houses, E 1027 and Tempe a Pailla.

Check back regularly for new object features!

Among the wide variety of objects on display are several discoveries that reveal new aspects of Eileen Gray’s life and work. Look closely below at the intricate details of an early figurative lacquer panel. Other objects exhibited for the first time include a tea table that highlights Gray’s skills in lacquer, a previously unknown drawing of an interior she designed in 1923, and furniture designed for her most famous houses, E 1027 and Tempe a Pailla.

Check back regularly for new object features!

ORIENTAL MOUNTEBANKS

ORIENTAL MOUNTEBANKS

Eileen Gray (1878–1976)
Oriental Mountebanks
Before 1915
Lacquered wood
15 1/4 x 62 1/2 in. (38.7 x 158.7 cm), including frame
Collection of the Maryhill Museum of Art, 1939.1

Now in the collection of the Maryhill Museum of Art, this recently rediscovered piece is an example of Eileen Gray’s early figurative lacquer work. The panel was first sent to the United States under the auspices of the dancer Loïe Fuller to be exhibited in the French pavilion at the 1915 San Francisco Panama–Pacific International Exposition. Gray exhibited multiple works at the fair, including furniture and at least two lacquer panels. Although her participation is confirmed in the catalogue of the Exposition, no other information about the pieces is recorded. Fuller and her partner, Gabrielle Bloch, a choreographer in Paris who used the pseudonym Gab Sorère, arranged the transport of the artworks to San Francisco with the help of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, a philanthropist, cultural advocate, and founder of the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco.

We know that although Gray’s pieces were shown at the Exposition, they did not return to France, and much of the rest of their story is conjecture. In all likelihood, Oriental Mountebanks is one of the panneaux cited in the Exposition catalogue as having been on display. It is possible the other lacquer panel in the shipment to San Francisco may have been a red-lacquer version of Gray’s Le Magicien de la nuit (The Magician of the night), made ca. 1912–13. Both pieces employ remarkably similar wooden framing mechanisms on the back of the panel and both are on display at Bard Graduate Center Gallery.

After the Exposition, Oriental Mountebanks may have traveled to Cleveland; an exhibition label that was once attached to the back of the piece records that Fuller lent “Oriental Montebanks” by artist “Eileen Grey” to the Industrial Arts exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where it was on view from December 1918 to February 1919. In 1921, the panel passed from Fuller to her friend Samuel Hill, the benefactor and founder of Maryhill Museum of Art in Washington. By 1939 the piece was in the museum’s collection, and accession records also refer to “1 lacquer secretary—green lacquer—red inside. Signature on back—Gray,” a piece which is now missing.

Like Oriental Mountebanks, many of Gray’s early designs are figurative, and her compositions often told stories: some inspired by mythology, others by the writings of her occultist friend Wyndham Lewis. By the end of the 1920s Gray abandoned figurative compositions and the kinds of detailed subject matter depicted on this panel. Like many artists, writers, and designers in Paris during the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century, Gray was fascinated by a hybrid Middle-and Far-Eastern orientalism. Here, the frieze of colorfully dressed figures echoes the form of Chinese narrative scroll painting while the graphic flatness is aligned with traditions of Perisan and Mughal art. Rich colors and precise details in the scene demonstrate Gray’s skills and deep knowledge of lacquer, gained from many years working with the material alongside Japanese craftsman Seizo Sugawara, her friend and collaborator.

Now in the collection of the Maryhill Museum of Art, this recently rediscovered piece is an example of Eileen Gray’s early figurative lacquer work. The panel was first sent to the United States under the auspices of the dancer Loïe Fuller to be exhibited in the French pavilion at the 1915 San Francisco Panama–Pacific International Exposition. Gray exhibited multiple works at the fair, including furniture and at least two lacquer panels. Although her participation is confirmed in the catalogue of the Exposition, no other information about the pieces is recorded. Fuller and her partner, Gabrielle Bloch, a choreographer in Paris who used the pseudonym Gab Sorère, arranged the transport of the artworks to San Francisco with the help of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, a philanthropist, cultural advocate, and founder of the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco.

We know that although Gray’s pieces were shown at the Exposition, they did not return to France, and much of the rest of their story is conjecture. In all likelihood, Oriental Mountebanks is one of the panneaux cited in the Exposition catalogue as having been on display. It is possible the other lacquer panel in the shipment to San Francisco may have been a red-lacquer version of Gray’s Le Magicien de la nuit (The Magician of the night), made ca. 1912–13. Both pieces employ remarkably similar wooden framing mechanisms on the back of the panel and both are on display at Bard Graduate Center Gallery.

After the Exposition, Oriental Mountebanks may have traveled to Cleveland; an exhibition label that was once attached to the back of the piece records that Fuller lent “Oriental Montebanks” by artist “Eileen Grey” to the Industrial Arts exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where it was on view from December 1918 to February 1919. In 1921, the panel passed from Fuller to her friend Samuel Hill, the benefactor and founder of Maryhill Museum of Art in Washington. By 1939 the piece was in the museum’s collection, and accession records also refer to “1 lacquer secretary—green lacquer—red inside. Signature on back—Gray,” a piece which is now missing.

Like Oriental Mountebanks, many of Gray’s early designs are figurative, and her compositions often told stories: some inspired by mythology, others by the writings of her occultist friend Wyndham Lewis. By the end of the 1920s Gray abandoned figurative compositions and the kinds of detailed subject matter depicted on this panel. Like many artists, writers, and designers in Paris during the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century, Gray was fascinated by a hybrid Middle-and Far-Eastern orientalism. Here, the frieze of colorfully dressed figures echoes the form of Chinese narrative scroll painting while the graphic flatness is aligned with traditions of Perisan and Mughal art. Rich colors and precise details in the scene demonstrate Gray’s skills and deep knowledge of lacquer, gained from many years working with the material alongside Japanese craftsman Seizo Sugawara, her friend and collaborator.

EXPLORE ORIENTAL MOUNTEBANKS IN DETAIL

BEDROOM/BOUDOIR FOR MONTE CARLO

BEDROOM/BOUDOIR FOR MONTE CARLO

Eileen Gray (1878–1976)
Drawing of Chambre à coucher boudoir pour Monte-Carlo (Bedroom/Boudoir for Monte Carlo)
1923
Gouache, crayon
Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, CD6251

In 2016, Raphaèle Billé, conservation assistant at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, made an important discovery in the Département des Arts Graphiques. She connected a preparatory drawing believed to be in Eileen Gray’s hand to the installation Gray exhibited at the 14th Salon des Artistes Décorateurs in Paris in 1923. Before this drawing came to light, this extraordinary room was known primarily through one single image published in L’Architecture Vivante in 1924, which shows the many aspects of the room Gray designed, including furniture (a sofa, screens, tables, chairs, and lamps), textiles, and wall hangings.

The preparatory drawing underscores the fact that even 90 years after Gray initially exhibited the room, we have only a fragmentary understanding of the project. The gouache is imposing in format at 33.5 x 25.5 inches (85 x 65 cm) and reveals an important aspect of the design in providing information about previously unknown pieces of furniture. In the foreground on the right side, an imposing black and white armchair that was unknown until now is visible. Behind the chair, Gray has placed her famous sycamore coiffeuse (dressing table) in front of a screen. On the left, there are panels that were once thought to be made of lacquer and are now known to have been made of leather, as evidenced by Gray’s handwritten notes: “Paravent cuir en 3 panneaux” (three-panel leather screen). In front of the sofa stands the marvelous little lacquer table with legs made of laque arraché (a technique that results in a textured surface), a unique piece that had not been previously connected to the Bedroom/Boudoir for Monte Carlo. At the center of this drawing, above the lacquer door, Gray writes, “Porte en laque avec dessins entaillés” (Lacquer door with notched patterns). Finally, at the top left next to Gray’s signature are precise and valuable hints written in her own hand: “Not all the furniture is shown on this sketch, location requested 6m x 7m.”

Bénédicte Gady, heritage curator in charge of the Département des Arts Graphiques at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs kindly agreed to loan this drawing to Bard Graduate Center Gallery. It was originally scheduled to be included in the exhibition Gady is curating, Le Dessin Sans Réserve (Drawing Without Reservation), which will be held at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs as soon as the lockdown in France is lifted. This exhibition presents the Musée des Arts Décoratifs’ extraordinary collection of drawings through nearly 500 objects, arranged in an alphabetical order in exhibition rooms and distributed throughout the museum in front of objects on permanent display.

In conclusion, this gouache, the oldest known in Gray’s hand, reveals a great deal of new information that helps to fill in the gaps in history and give a clearer understanding of her important Bedroom/Boudoir for Monte Carlo project.

– Cloé Pitiot, Curator of Eileen Gray

In 2016, Raphaèle Billé, conservation assistant at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, made an important discovery in the Département des Arts Graphiques. She connected a preparatory drawing believed to be in Eileen Gray’s hand to the installation Gray exhibited at the 14th Salon des Artistes Décorateurs in Paris in 1923. Before this drawing came to light, this extraordinary room was known primarily through one single image published in L’Architecture Vivante in 1924, which shows the many aspects of the room Gray designed, including furniture (a sofa, screens, tables, chairs, and lamps), textiles, and wall hangings.

The preparatory drawing underscores the fact that even 90 years after Gray initially exhibited the room, we have only a fragmentary understanding of the project. The gouache is imposing in format at 33.5 x 25.5 inches (85 x 65 cm) and reveals an important aspect of the design in providing information about previously unknown pieces of furniture. In the foreground on the right side, an imposing black and white armchair that was unknown until now is visible. Behind the chair, Gray has placed her famous sycamore coiffeuse (dressing table) in front of a screen. On the left, there are panels that were once thought to be made of lacquer and are now known to have been made of leather, as evidenced by Gray’s handwritten notes: “Paravent cuir en 3 panneaux” (three-panel leather screen). In front of the sofa stands the marvelous little lacquer table with legs made of laque arraché (a technique that results in a textured surface), a unique piece that had not been previously connected to the Bedroom/Boudoir for Monte Carlo. At the center of this drawing, above the lacquer door, Gray writes, “Porte en laque avec dessins entaillés” (Lacquer door with notched patterns). Finally, at the top left next to Gray’s signature are precise and valuable hints written in her own hand: “Not all the furniture is shown on this sketch, location requested 6m x 7m.”

Bénédicte Gady, heritage curator in charge of the Département des Arts Graphiques at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs kindly agreed to loan this drawing to Bard Graduate Center Gallery. It was originally scheduled to be included in the exhibition Gady is curating, Le Dessin Sans Réserve (Drawing Without Reservation), which will be held at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs as soon as the lockdown in France is lifted. This exhibition presents the Musée des Arts Décoratifs’ extraordinary collection of drawings through nearly 500 objects, arranged in an alphabetical order in exhibition rooms and distributed throughout the museum in front of objects on permanent display.

In conclusion, this gouache, the oldest known in Gray’s hand, reveals a great deal of new information that helps to fill in the gaps in history and give a clearer understanding of her important Bedroom/Boudoir for Monte Carlo project.

– Cloé Pitiot, Curator of Eileen Gray

EXPLORE THE DRAWING IN DETAIL