Eileen Gray Screen

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1878-1976 Eileen Gray Screens were in production from the early 1920's


Eileen Gray’s screen’s are formed from a series of lacquered ‘bricks’ hinged and connected internally. Each tile, or brick, in the screen was hand made using the painstaking traditional method of lacquering which requires between 20 & 40 coats of lacquer on both sides to prevent warping. The screens are modular with a frame structure, a technique she achieved by exploring, testing and refining the design concept over a number of years beginning with model prototypes. The use of recessed piano style hinges mean that the screens can be moved and configured in many arrangements. Gray’s early screens were made of traditional Japanese lacquer made from the resin of Rhus verniciflua or Rhus succedanea and applied to wood. They were often made in traditional black lacquer but Eileen Gray also experimented with natural pigmentation or dyes in the lacquer process creating translucent effects. The natural dyes she used were reddish brown, brilliant red or blue. Later Gray experimented with other materials including cork in place of the lacquered tiles. The screens were made in varying sizes and are surprisingly large by today’s standards. Even in their day they were very expensive and they were only affordable by the wealthy classes who could accommodate such large scale items for their spaces. They are now collector’s items and some of her original work can be sold for vast sums running into hundreds of thousands of pounds at auction. The screen in the photograph is approximately 1.5 m high by 2m in length.

A Personal View

To me, these screens had an immediate appeal. I like the interconnectivity of the structure and the patterns created by the hinged effect in 3-D. The reflective quality of the lacquer creates and re-creates the repeated elements within the screen. I adore the shadowplay created by the rythmic shapes. The screen is a style icon because of the simplicity of the idea. Although Gray’s screen is made of lacquer it could be made of almost any material, and indeed with the advance of technologies today could be made much more cost effectively in a wide range of materials without losing the style or integrity of the design. If we consider that this was designed by a woman in the early 1920’s against a backdrop of late Victoriana it is both admirable and astounding. Even after her death, at the age of 98, she remained a trend setter – with much of her work still considered avant garde even today.


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Eileen Gray ‘s work falls into the International Style, or early modernism. As an architect, she inspired Le Corbusier with her creation of one of the most iconic houses in the 20th century E.1027. Eileen Gray designed every element of the house including the screens and her most famous creation the ‘Bibendum’ chair. The modernist approach of form following function is elemental to Gray’s work.


e1027 house

biography of Gray

Author: Joanne Jones Date: March 2007