RAY EAMES (1912 – 1988)
RAY EAMES (1912 – 1988)
RAY EAMES (1912 – 1988)
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RAY EAMES (1912 – 1988)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more
RAY EAMES (1912 – 1988)

A Unique and Important Splint Sculpture

RAY EAMES (1912 – 1988)
A Unique and Important Splint Sculpture
saw-cut moulded plywood, with flat black painted finish
36 x 6 x 6 in. (91 x 15 x 15 cm.)

Executed in 1943, this work is unique.
Eames Office, Venice, Los Angeles.
Parke Meek, Venice, Los Angeles.
Eames Auction, Treadway Gallery in association with John Toomey and Richard Wright, Chicago, 23 May 1999, lot 2143.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Other examples of moulded plywood sculptures, leg splints and experiments illustrated:
J. Neuhart, M. Neuhart, R. Eames, Eames Design, the Work of the Office of Charles and Ray Eames, London, 1989, pp. 28-29, 31-34, 40-45.
E. Demetrios, An Eames Primer, New York, 2001, pp. 34, 38.
C. Ince, L. Johnson, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, London, 2015, pp. 25, 27, 30-37.
D. Ostroff, An Eames Anthology, Yale, 2015, pp. 8, 14-15
This splint sculpture exhibited:
Work of Charles and Ray Eames: A Legacy of Invention, 25 June – 10 September 2000, Los
Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles.

California’s Designing Women: 1896 – 1986, 6 February 2012 – 27 January 2013, Museum of California Design, The Autry Museum,
Los Angeles.

Another splint sculpture exhibited:
The World of Charles and Ray Eames, 21 October 2015 – 14 February 2016, Barbican Art Gallery, London, United Kingdom
Special notice

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Brought to you by

Jeremy Morrison
Jeremy Morrison

Lot Essay

History has confirmed Charles & Ray Eames as amongst the most influential creative partnerships of the twentieth century, their rational and playfully eloquent designs emblematic of post-war optimism, yet robustly grounded in democratic pragmatism. As with any creative partnership, it is inappropriate to segregate or to compartmentalise the contributions offered by the individual contributors – and although Charles and Ray indeed considered themselves as designers, the diversity and scope of their activities at the Eames Office transcended ordinary interpretations of the term, to include not only furniture design and architecture, but also films, education, toys, computing and international diplomacy.

Charles and Ray married in 1941, having met at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where Charles was head of the industrial design department. Together with fellow Cranbrook colleague Eero Saarinen, Charles quickly established a profile for the experimental furnishings designed for the Organic Design exhibition at MoMA, 1940. Prior to enrolling at Cranbrook, Ray had studied under Hans Hofmann, practised as a painter in New York, and alongside Josef Albers, Burgoyne Diller, Ibram Lassaw and others, was in 1936 a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group, participating in their first group show at the Riverside Museum, New York, in 1937. Her work was included in major exhibitions alongside works by Ad Reinhardt, Lee Krasner and Diller.
Her abstract paintings from this early period are today in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Columbus Museum. Moving to Los Angeles with Charles in 1941, Ray increasingly included graphic design amongst her interests, and of special note are the collages that she designed for the covers of Arts & Architecture magazine from the mid- to late 1940s. Crucial to their evolution as designers were the experimental plywood sculptures and objects that Charles and Ray developed at their Venice, California, workshop in the early 1940s.

The declaration of war in December 1941 summoned the mobilization of industrial activity necessary to the war effort. Learning that metal splints were exacerbating battlefield injuries, Charles conceived a plywood alternative that was certified by the military in August 1942, and by November the U.S. Navy had placed its first order for 5000 splints from the newly established Plyformed Wood Company. The leg splints were the first fully three-dimensionally moulded plywood objects suitable for mass-production, and as such established the technology that through the Eames was to revolutionise the post-war furniture industry.

Styled purely by efficiency and function, the organic personality of these plywood splints provided ready substance for Ray’s talents as
a sculptor. A December 1942 Christmas card created by Charles and Ray shows them posing with a segment of a leg splint, now sculpted into an abstract, biomorphic sculpture, painted flat black. Other period photographs record the existence of other sculptural forms and mobiles, again black-painted. Recalling the biomorphic massing characteristic of Jean Arp, or the meandering calligraphy of Joan Miró, Ray Eames’ intuitive, casual sculptures contributed to the informal aesthetic that would soon translate into the experimental DCM and DCW chairs of 1945.

Only three full-length leg splint s culptures are known to have been created by Ray. All executed the same year, 1943, they reveal
complimentary personalities that unite the parallel narratives of sculpture and industrial design. Of the three, one is in the Eames
Collection LLC (photographed above right). Another example (drawing illustrated, above centre), the location of which is unknown,
is recorded in a 1963 photograph of the New Canaan home of Eliot Noyes, Director of the department of Industrial Design at MoMA. The present splint sculpture is one of the two sculptures that remained in the designers' own collection, and was given by Ray to long-term Eames Office member Parke Meeks, during the 1960s. The sculpture, which is the only example to have come to market, had remained in Meek’s possession until sold by him at auction in 1999, where it was purchased by the current owner.

Christie’s would like to thank the team at the Eames Office, including Eames Demetrios, David Hertsgaard, Genevieve C. Fong, and Daniel Ostroff for their assistance in the preparation of this catalogue entry.


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