EILEEN GRAY (1878-1976)
EILEEN GRAY (1878-1976)
EILEEN GRAY (1878-1976)
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EILEEN GRAY (1878-1976)
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EILEEN GRAY (1878-1976)


EILEEN GRAY (1878-1976)
'Bibendum' Armchair, 1926-1928
original coated fabric upholstery, chromed metal
27 in. (68.5 cm) high; 36 in. (91.4 cm) wide; 29 in. (73.7 cm) deep
Jean Désert, Eileen Gray’s gallery in Paris
Jeanne Tachard, Paris, acquired from the above
Thence by descent
Private Collection, Paris
Private Collection, Paris
Quay Lombrail, Paris, 22 April 1997, lot 26 (pair)
Galerie Jean-Jacques Dutko, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner
E. Gray, J.Badovici, E1027 Maison en bord de mer, L’Architecture vivante, Editions Albert Morancé, Paris, winter 1929, the model illustrated in situ in E1027, pl. 14
B. Loye, Eileen Gray (1879-1976). Architecture design, New York, 1984, p. 111 for the model at the home of Madame Mathieu-Levy
Paris, Galerie Jacques De Vos, Eileen Gray de Jean Désert à Temple a Palla, 12 September - 31 October 2014, reproduced p. 104
Paris, Center Georges Pompidou, UAM une Aventure Moderne, 30 May - 27 April 2018, reproduced p. 158, no. 3
Metz, France, Centre Pompidou Metz, Couples Modernes 1900-1950, 28 April - 20 August 2018, reproduced p. 78
London, Barbican Art Gallery, Modern Couples, 10 October - 27 January 2019
New York, Bard Graduate Center, Eileen Gray, 13-28 October 2020, reproduced p. 298 fig, E3

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Alex Heminway
Alex Heminway

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Lot Essay

This lot will be included in the catalogue raisonné written by Mr. Patrice le Faÿ d’Etxepare d’Ibarrola.

The ‘Bibendum’ has become one of Eileen Gray’s most celebrated designs. Re-editions proliferate, but surviving original examples are of the greatest rarity. The model was created in the late 1920s when Gray was creating furniture in a new idiom for the villa E1027 that she was designing and building on a rocky site overlooking the Mediterranean at Roquebrune. With this project, she moved on from her sumptuous work in lacquer; in the spirit of a new, utopian Modernism, she explored the possibilities of modest, even industrial materials and she brought her unique visual intelligence to bear on the challenge of creating furniture that was functional yet able to delight. She became a pioneer in the use of tubular steel, following very closely on the heels of Marcel Breuer, and devised novel solutions to the conventional problems of seat and table design – none more inspired or engaging than her ‘Bibendum’. Her source of inspiration was the jovial figure built from tyres created by manufacturer Michelin to promote their product. The mass of the welcoming butter-coloured upholstered forms seems to float in space above the most minimal opentubular steel base. Gray has ensured that the necessary bulk of the seat is balanced by a very light footprint.
The present version is one of a pair purchased from Gray in 1930 by a most distinguished client, Jeanne Tachard, revealing a close-woven set of connections. Tachard was a friend of the great couturier and art collector Jacques Doucet, Gray’s first important client. Tachard was also professionally involved in the world of fashion as an associate in the fashion house of Suzanne Talbot. Through the 1920s, it was Tachard’s associate Juliette Lévy who adopted the professional identity of Suzanne Talbot. It was under this name that she was shot for the cover of a fashionable magazine, L’Officiel, in 1926, and in the same year posed for Harper’s Bazar [sic, it became Harper’s Bazaar in November 1929] in her Paris apartment, refurbished between 1919 and 1922 by Gray with splendid lacquer wall panels and furniture. Tachard and Lévy also shared a taste for African artefacts – a taste perhaps inspired by Doucet – and both were to acquire ‘Bibendum’ armchairs – the very height of sophisticated avant-gardism.

Philippe Garner

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