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Eileen Moray Gray

An Irish furniture designer and architect and a pioneer of the Modern Movement in architecture, Kathleen Eileen Moray Gray was born on 1878.

In 1898, Gray attended classes at the Slade School of Fine Art, where she studied painting. While there, she met Jessie Gavin and Kathleen Bruce. She continued her studies in Paris at the Académie Julian and the Académie Colarossi. For four or five years after the move, Gray travelled back and forth from Paris to Ireland to London, but in 1905, due to her mother's illness, she settled back in London.

Gray came across a lacquer repair shop in Soho, in London, where she asked the shop owner, Mr. D. Charles, whether he could show her the fundamentals of lacquer work, as it had taken her fancy. The owner had many contacts from the lacquer industry and when Gray moved back to Paris in 1906 . Gray was given the job of decorating an apartment in the rue de Lota. She designed most of its furniture (including her famous Bibendum chair), carpets and lamps, and installed lacquered panels on the walls. The result was favourably reviewed by several art critics who saw it as innovative. Given a boost from the success of the apartment, Gray opened up a small shop in Paris, Jean Desert, to exhibit and sell her work and that of her artist friends. Shortly thereafter, persuaded by Jean Badovici, she turned her interests to architecture.

In 1968, a complimentary magazine article drew attention to her accomplishments, and Gray agreed to production of her Bibendum chair and E-1027 table as well as numerous other pieces with Zeev Aram. They were soon to become modern furniture classics. Likewise, Gray's 'Le Destin' screen was featured in the sale and went for $36,000. Collectors entered the chase, and Yves Saint Laurent's interest completed the mystification of her image.

In February 2009, a "Dragons" armchair made by Gray between 1917–1919 (acquired by her early patron Suzanne Talbot and later part of the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé collection) was sold at auction in Paris for 21.9 million Euros (US$28.3 million), setting an auction record for 20th century decorative art. On the other hand, her Bibendum Chair was one of the 20th century's most recognizable furniture designs. The chair is very much for lounging in and socializing. Its back/arm rest consists of two semi-circular, padded tubes encased in soft leather. The name that Gray chose for the chair, Bibendum, originates from the character created by Michelin to sell tyres.

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