Monday 30 January 2023



It started as a thank you note but developed into a general review:

Thanks again for the Eileen Gray book loan.^

It is an interesting read.

One could comment about various aspects of the publication, but is reluctant to criticize

it, just being thankful that it was written; and by someone close to Eileen Gray.* Adam notes 

that he was the only surviving close friend.

Peter Adam

It is strange that Thames & Hudson has kept silent about the origins of this 2009/2019

publication. Thames & Hudson published Peter Adam’s Eileen Gray Architect/Designer  A

Biography in 1987. Oddly, the book is not listed as one of Peter Adam’s books in the blurb on

him on the inside cover of this 2019 edition. Was Thames & Hudson hoping that the book

might be forgotten?

This first biography is mentioned almost as an aside in the preface of the 2009/2019 edition,

but nowhere else; noting just that it exists, without it being identified/referenced as the 

Abrams/Thames & Hudson edition - that has been modified/reworked?

The chapters in the 2009/2019 publication are nearly identical in title and sequence to

those in the 1987 edition: there are a couple of changes at the beginning and the end of

the list. One hopes that this 2009/2019 edition is not just an expensive reproduction, like

a scanned copy run as a reprint presented as a new item.

It appears that Adam has slightly altered, perhaps updated the text for 2009/2019; this

requires more checking: the situation should have been made clear by Thames & Hudson.

One wonders why it was not mentioned.

A Gray gouache

Adam died in 2019, so might have seen this most recent edition of his work.

Most of the photographs in the first publication are all ‘old technology’ – clear, crisp,

sharp and glossy. One can see that the scans change the clarity film gave these original

images: here one is reminded of the difference between the drawings in the original Banister

Fletcher’s History of Architecture on the Comparative Method and the new digitised version

of this book not all new technology is amazing.

I got a little frustrated with the repeated adulation of Gray's endless development

sketches/reworked models of her brilliant ideas one saw little of - apparently years and

years of work - and the hype about schemes that seemed unintelligible to me, e.g. the

holiday centre exhibited by Le Corbusier.

Then one searches online for and discovers more images of Gray’s very few completed

houses, and remains amazed that they ever got finished, let alone built with such subtle

quality, detail, and refinement.


It is interesting to see more than the standard angles and detail of these places. There

are some nice images of the remarkable E.1027 ‘constructivist’ glass tower that seems

to get ignored in favour of the dominant, white, horizontal mass.

Corbusier’s behaviour is astonishing. What happened to his murals at E.1027 in the latest

refurbishment? One hopes that they were removed.#

Gray’s precise and elegant furniture is always surprising, a little like the attribution of her

work. At least one current Google listing talks of Corbusier’s E.1027 house with some of

Gray’s furniture in it.

It is a shame that her intentions for mass production were never realised. The idea of

well-designed items for the masses must have been a popular vision in those times.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh had the same ambition, with the same outcome.

The Transat chair

The Bibendum lounge

Her pieces are still being made under the original agreement; the Transat chair is a

mere £11,000; the Bibendum lounge is £2,500; the Nonconformist chair is £3,000

(approx. at the reduced prices): see – for the complete list of rugs, mirrors, chairs,


The Nonconformist chair

The Satellite mirror

A Gray rug

ARAM continue to make this range of Eileen Gray designs that do not get much

publicity. It seems that auction prices have made everything ‘Gray’ very elite, for

‘specialised’ tastes and deep pockets, which seems not too different to her early days in

Paris. Her limited output only aggravates this situation.

I was unaware of Gray’s lacquer work that must have looked mysteriously fabulous in

her interiors.

Could one best describe Gray as a dilettante?

The worry with this description is the ‘shallow knowledge’ involved. It is clear that Gray’s

was a very particular, refined understanding. She remains difficult to categorise, having made

herself an enigma engaged in a complexity of different relationships that, even after reading

Adam’s biography, remain more than puzzling.


A colleague loaned me a copy of Peter Adam Eileen Gray: Her Life and Work  Thames &

Hudson, London, 2019.



One does wonder if footnotes might have sharpened things up a little by removing the

tedious references and lengthy quotes, and allowing explanatory points to be elaborated

separately instead of trying to weave everything into the text; but one has to realise that

Adam was a BBC documentary producer/writer, perhaps something of a dilettante



It is a change to read a book that has no obvious textual/print errors. Perhaps this is

because it has been so thoroughly ‘reworked’?


Alas, the murals remain, such are the irrational complexities of heritage work: see -


This text notes Gray’s bisexuality, a subject Adam avoids. Adam also makes no

reference to the photograph showing Corbusier painting the murals nude, an outrageous act

that has serious suggestive symbolic meanings/implications.

Perhaps there is another book that needs to be written on Gray’s exploits instead of just

reworking/renaming the 1987 edition? Such a study might clarify/explain those

relationships that remain so puzzling.

Cover of Architectural Review

One is left feeling that Adam’s detailed biography has merely scratched the surface of

the compounded, composite life of an Irish lady who lived in France and indulged in

 architecture and design. The prim inventiveness of her work is there for all to ponder, but it

 really tells us very little about her. Our assumptions based on what we see may even be

 misleading given the melange of her times: her context, her contacts, her collaborators; her

 reading; her travels, and her travails.