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women in early Modern design

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Jul 15, 2012 01:04 AM
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by bubba of the bubbles ( last modified Jul 14, 2012



As the saying goes, it's hard to be a woman, but imagine being a woman in the early days of the modern movement. Many were lost behind the larger (man) names they attached their careers to, but attentive souls are teasing out the actual contributions of women to the early modern movement. Eileen Gray, Charlotte Perrand, and Lily Reich are three of my favorites, the latter two having had their contributions literally eclipsed by the larger names they worked with (The Barcelona chair isn't solely a Mies van der Rohe creation! Charlotte was the lead designer on the Corbusier furniture!). 

eileen gray

Eileen Gray

Eileen, an Irish modernist designer and architect, is known for her furniture and her early modern house in southern France, E-1027. Born into a wealthy family, she went to art school and then set up shop in Paris, making an early name for herself in interior design and furniture design. In the 1920s, she designed and built E-1027, a house Le Corbusier became fixated on (painting Picasso-esque murals on the interior walls to the great consternation of Eileen). Her family's money allowed her to stay out of the shadow of men, but some of her later designs have been attributed to others (men) she designed for (something her daughter [good for her!] sues to rectify). 

Corbu later drowned off the shores of Eileen's house during a daily swim. 

de Stijl, 1922

Block Screen, 1922

Lota, 1924

Kilkenny rug, 1925

Wendingen rug, 1925

Day bed, 1925

Satellite hanging lamp, 1925 (this lamp recently sold for $3.8 million!) 

Roquebrune rug, 1926

Adjustable Table, 1927

Castellar wall mirror, 1927

End table, 1927

Tube light, 1927

Satellite mirror, 1927

Double X, 1928

Rivoli Tea Table, 1928

Monte Carlo, 1929

Bibendum Chair, 1929 (latin for "and now we shall drink")

Petit coiffeuse, 1929

Roquebrune chair, 1932

Lou Perou table, 1932

Menton, 1932

Bonaparte, 1935

charlotte perriand

Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999)

Charlotte, a French modernist designer, is known for her furniture designs and (hidden by time) collaboration with Le Corbusier. When she first inquired about a job with Corbu, his response was "We don't embroider cushions here." He later changed his mind after seeing her furniture later that year in 1927 and hired her to run his interior shop where she designed a number of iconic pieces in collaboration with him and Pierre Jeanneret. Later in her career, in addition to furniture design, she became an architect and a photographer. And instead of pearls, she wore ball bearings! If you can judge the spirit of a person by photographs (and I think you can with Charlotte), she was an absolute joy!

"work and sport", 1927

LC swivel chair, 1927

interior equipment for living, with Pierre Jeanneret, 1928

LC2 grand confort armchair, 1928 with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret

B301 reclining chair, 1928 with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret

B306 chaise lounge, 1928 with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret

refuge tonneau, with Pierre Jeanneret, 1938

cabinet on base, 1939

lounge chair, 1940

bookshelf (with Jean Prouve), 1953

student room, 1953


bed, 1956

cloud bookshelves and sideboard, 1961


Tunisian bookshelf

lily reich

Lily Reich (1885-1947)

Lily, a German Modernist designer, is known for her furniture designs and collaborations with Mies van der Rohe between 1925 and 1938 (Mies went to the United States in 1938, Lily stayed in Germany). In fact, many of Mies van der Rohe's furniture designs, attributed to him, were very likely (almost assuredly)  joint projects with Lily (the only time Mies "designed" furniture was when he was associated with Lily). Lily also collaborated with Mies on the Barcelona Pavilion. 

D42, 1927

Pier-mirror, 1927

Barcelona Chair, 1928, with Mies van der Rohe

chair without arms, c. 1931, MOMA

garden table, 1931, MOMA

LR120, 1931, MOMA

MR10, 1931, MOMA

the dwelling in our time, 1931, with Mies van der Rohe, MOMA




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