|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Ray-Bernice Alexandra Kaiser Eames (December 15, 1912 – August 21, 1988) was an American artist, designer, and filmmaker who, together with her husband Charles, is responsible for many classic, iconic designs of the 20th century. She was born in Sacramento, California to Alexander and Edna Burr Kaiser, and had a brother named Maurice. After having lived in a number of cities during her youth, in 1933 she graduated from Bennett Women's College in Millbrook, New York, and moved to New York City, where she studied abstract expressionist* painting with Hans Hofmann. She was a founder of the American Abstract Artists* group in 1936 and displayed paintings in their first show a year later at Riverside Museum in Manhattan. One of her paintings is in the permanent collection of The Whitney Museum of American Art.|
In September 1940, she began studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art* in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. She met Charles Eames while preparing drawings and models for the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition, and they were married the following year. Settling in Los Angeles, California, Charles and Ray Eames would lead an outstanding career in design and architecture.
In 1943, 1944, and 1947, Ray Eames designed several covers for the landmark magazine, Arts & Architecture.
In the late 1940s, Ray Eames created several textile designs, two of which, Crosspatch and Sea Things, were produced by Schiffer Prints, a company that also produced textiles by Salvador Dalí and Frank Lloyd Wright. Original examples of Ray Eames textiles can be found in many art museum collections. The Ray Eames textiles have been re-issued by Maharam as part of their Textiles of the Twentieth Century collection.
Ray Eames died in Los Angeles in 1988, ten years to the day after Charles.
In the 1950s, the Eameses continued their work in architecture and modern furniture design. As with their earlier molded plywood work, the Eameses pioneered technologies, such as the fiberglass* and plastic resin chairs and the wire mesh chairs designed for Herman Miller. From the beginning, the Eames furniture has usually been listed as by Charles Eames. In the 1948 and 1952 Herman Miller bound catalogs, only Charles' name is listed, but it has become clear that Ray was deeply involved and should be considered an equal partner.
The Eames fabrics (many are currently available from Maharam) were mostly designed by Ray, as were the Time Life Stools. In 1979, the Royal Institute of British Architects awarded Charles and Ray with the Royal Gold Medal. At the time of Charles' death they were working on what became their last production, the Eames Sofa, which went into production in 1984.
Charles and Ray channeled Charles' interest in photography into the production of short films. From their first film, the unfinished Traveling Boy (1950), to Powers of Ten (re-released in 1977), their cinematic work was an outlet for ideas, a vehicle for experimentation and education. The couple often produced short films in order to document their interests, such as collecting toys and cultural artifacts on their travels. The films also record the process of hanging their exhibits or producing classic furniture designs. Some of their other films cover more intellectual topics. For example, one film covers the purposely mundane topic of filming soap suds moving over the pavement of a parking lot. Powers of Ten (narrated by the late physicist Philip Morrison), gives a dramatic demonstration of orders of magnitude by visually zooming away from the earth to the edge of the universe, and then microscopically zooming into the nucleus of a carbon atom.
The Eameses also conceived and designed a number of exhibitions. The first of these, Mathematica: a world of numbers...and beyond (1961), was sponsored by IBM, and is the only one of their exhibitions still extant. The Mathematica exhibition is still considered a model for science popularization exhibitions. It was followed by A Computer Perspective: Background to the Computer Age (1971) and The World of Franklin and Jefferson (1975–1977), among others.
The office of Charles and Ray Eames, which functioned for more than four decades (1943–88) at 901 Washington Boulevard in Venice, California, included in its staff, at one time or another, a number of remarkable designers, like Henry Beer and Richard Foy, now co-chairmen of CommArts, Inc.; Don Albinson; Deborah Sussman; Harry Bertoia; and Gregory Ain, who was Chief Engineer for the Eameses during World War II. Among the many important designs originating there are the molded-plywood DCW (Dining Chair Wood) and DCM (Dining Chair Metal with a plywood seat) (1945), Eames Lounge Chair (1956), the Aluminum Group furniture (1958) and as well as the Eames Chaise (1968), designed for Charles's friend, film director Billy Wilder, the playful Do-Nothing Machine (1957), an early solar energy experiment, and a number of toys.
In 1970–71, Charles Eames gave the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University. At the lectures, the Eames viewpoint and philosophy are related through Charles' own telling of what he called the banana leaf parable, a banana leaf being the most basic dish off which to eat in southern India. He related the progression of design and its process where the banana leaf is transformed into something fantastically ornate. He explains the next step and ties it to the design process by finishing the parable with:
"But you can go beyond that and the guys that have not only means, but a certain amount of knowledge and understanding, go the next step and they eat off of a banana leaf. And I think that in these times when we fall back and regroup, that somehow or other, the banana leaf parable sort of got to get working there, because I'm not prepared to say that the banana leaf that one eats off of is the same as the other eats off of, but it's that process that has happened within the man that changes the banana leaf. And as we attack these problems—and I hope and I expect that the total amount of energy used in this world is going to go from high to medium to a little bit lower—the banana leaf idea might have a great part in it."
Eames House entry (Case Study House #8)
Sweetzer House (between 1930–33)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch model home (193?)
St. Mary's Church (Helena, Arkansas) (1934)
St. Mary's Church (Paragould, Arkansas) (1935)
Dinsmoor House (1936)
Dean House (193?)
Meyer House (1938)
Bridge house (Eames-Saarinen) (1945)
Entenza House (1949)
Eames House (1949)
Max De Pree House (1954)
Exhibitions and retrospectives
Charles and Ray Eames at the Design Museum, London (1998)
Library of Congress exhibit (1999)
On June 17, 2008, the US Postal Service released the Eames Stamps, a pane of 16 stamps celebrating the designs of Charles and Ray Eames. A well-received documentary about the couple titled Eames: The Architect and the Painter was released on November 18, 2011 as part of the American Masters series on PBS television.
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