CHARLES AND RAY EAMES. Inventive designers of the post World War II period; created the “Eames Chairs.”
Typewritten Letter Signed by Charles, C, one page, quarto, May 14, 1952. To Alexander Girard (in Grosse Pointe, Michigan). With one word and two corrections in his hand, and one sentence, written in red crayon, in Ray’s hand: ” will call Sat. A.M. Ok?!” (after which she adds a heart). Ray’s perif, in red crayon, is in the bottom right portion of the page.
“I will be there Sunday about noon. Ray should be there a day before that. This all comes at a hell of a time, but I will have to come right back….I got a cable from the devil Eero who will not be back in Detroit until the 22nd, by which time I will have to be on the way home. In our arrangements with the A.I.A. there has been no mention of dinners or cocktail parties beforehand-let’s keep it that way. I told Mr. Hughes that we would be staying with youse, so if he makes any moves toward dinner or stuff, put the Girard kibosh on him but quick.”
A letter from one titan of design to another. Charles Eames, together with his wife and partner Ray (Kaiser) Eames, were the most exciting and inventive design team in the post-World War II period. Their “Office of Charles and Ray Eames” was based in Southern California. The Eames and their coterie of friends and collaborators believed in better living through better design. It was the credo of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan where many of them met in the late 1930’s and early 40’s.
The recipient of this letter, designer Alexander (“Sandro”) Girard was a life-long friend of the Eameses. In 1952, he became director of design for the textile division of Herman Miller (in Michigan) which also manufactured and marketed the Eameses furniture designs. Later Girard would be hired by Mary Wells and Frank Lawrence to redesign the airplanes of Braniff Airlines.
Eero (referred to as “the devil Eero” in this letter) is the architect Eero Saarinen. His father, the architect Eliel Saarinen, was the first President of the Cranbrook Academy. Eero collaborated with Eames on an early version of the plywood molded chair (for which they won a prize from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City).
The full-fledged Eames chair was a later, more elegant, more sculptural descendent of this war-time prize winner. The leap from good to great to commercial was the collaboration of Eames and his new wife Ray Kaiser. They left Cranbrook, married, and settled in California. Charles Eames found work building sets for MGM. Ray spent her days smuggling tools into their rented bungalow so she could experiment with the new glues and materials being produced for World War II. Her experience as an artist (in the studio of Abstract Impressionist Hans Hoffman) carried the day. She was able to translate the ideas and forms of abstract art into the three-dimensional form of a chair, giving it a curiously animated look.
To this day, it is difficult to untangle the contributions of the intertwined Eames. His approach was an extension of architecture; hers an extension of painting. They lived a life of intense design. They even designed themselves, dressing in an “artistic” kind of way. To their friends Ray was like the Jo March character in Little Women and Charles was the Howard Roark character in Ayn Rand’s 1943 novel The Fountainhead. (Roark was partly based on Frank Lloyd Wright, a hero of Charles Eames’s). They worked verbally, hands on, and with a lot of photography (a great interest of Charles’s). Ray once joked that a business letter by Charles was a rare thing.
Framed in silver with a portrait of Ray and Charles Eames. Ray is holding a Christmas ornament over Charles’ head and one of their sculptures is in the background. Off-white inner mat and gray outer mat. Framed dimensions: 21 inches wide by 18 inches high.
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