If you’re looking for artists who have helped shape the current Americna landscape when it comes to architecture, interior design, film and even fine arts, then look no farther than the biographies of Charles and Ray Eames, two of the greatest mid-century artist whose contributes still ring through today in the architecture schools field already listed. Finding an area that they have not touched or influenced is a difficult proposition altogether considering that Charles and Ray were two of the most prolific artists of their generation.
But before we get ahead to their influences, perhaps it is worthwhile to take a little stock of where they have come from and how they have grown to become who they were simply because the inspiration they bring jumps from beyond the canvass, the furniture and the architecture into the realm of the social and captivating. If nothing else, Charles and Ray Eames are Christmas lights beckoning hope and showing that for all that its worth, the American dream is still a possibility even in the toughest of times.
The man of the two, Mr. Charles Ormond Eames Jr. was born on June 17, 1907 to a modest family in St. Louis, Missouri. His hardwork and dedication to success was reflected in his part-time work as a laborer for the Laclede Steel Company where at a young age of 14, he was already taking stock of important skills in engineering, drawing and learning architectural concepts that would forever change the course of his life. In the years following his mini-stint at Laclede, Charles went on to study architecture at Washington University in St. Louis during which he earned an employment slot at the architectural firm of Trueblood and Graf. He left university after two years of studying purportedly because the demands of academic and professional translation were simply too much to juggle at one time.
Having left the architectural schools behind, Charles Eames went on to practice architecture with partner Charles Gray. Not many years later, Walter Pauley completed their team who went on to produce some of the most iconic architectural designs in the mid-19th century. They drew inspiration from a variety of old sources but were particularly captivated by Eliel Saarinen’s work such that Charles and Eliel would both push the boundaries of mid-century architecture and furniture designs from both sides of the Atlantic. Saarinen and Eames would later strike a friendship through Eliel’s son Eero who became Charles’ partner. This led Charles to go back to school to study and eventually lead the industrial design department at Cranbrook Academy of Art. Charles and Eero’s partnership saw them build iconic furniture designs for such prestigious institutions as the New York Museum of Art. If this were the hair sector, Eero and Charles’ revolutionary take on furniture making would have been a capable equivalent to Brazilian Keratin treatment.
Around 1941, Charles divorced her first wife Catherine and re-married with Ray Kaiser who was then a colleague at Cranbrook. Thus the partnership of Charles and Ray Eames would be born through which we currently enjoy the many triumphs of mid-century architecture and furniture design. Charles and Ray would resume their practice out of Los Angeles, California from which they would remain until their deaths in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
From this, it is likewise worthwhile to look at the early life of Ray Bernice Alexandra Kaiser Eames who was born on December 15, 1912. Her background was in painting having graduated from the Bennett Women’s College in New York as an abstract expressionist, a far stretch from her york wedding photographer background. How a painter would end up designing iconic buildings and furniture is part of the allure of Charles and Ray Eames which even today continues to be celebrated in stamps or promotional t shirts. Even in some handbag designs, the inspiration from Charles and Ray lives on. Ray’s re-entry into the school setting in 1940 paved the way for her meeting with Charles after which they were married as already mentioned.
As designers, Charles and Ray Eames would go on to create a host of celebrated designs in various industries most notably in furniture and architecture. As partners, they began working together in the early 1940s but it is their work in the 1950s that catapulted them to superstardom. The vision of Charles and Ray Eames led to the creation of furniture using such breakthrough materials as fiber glass, plastic resin, wood moldings, and wire mesh. They also produced short films that up to today are sought after pieces in auction sites to complement their furniture releases. The short films in particular were borne out of Charles’ love for photography of which he was a frustrated vork wedding photographer; but with Ray’s insistence, Charles made something out of such passion with the production of the films’ Traveling Boy and Powers of Ten, among others, in 1950 and 1977 respectively.
One of the Eames’ hallmark achievements is the still existing Mathematica exhibit which was promoted by IBM. It chronicled the concept of the marriage of art and science culminating in a scientific popularization exhibit that served to carry the once elitist image of science into an art-hungry public.
Anyone who would take time to read the detailed biography of Charles and Ray Eames would not help but realize how these who were the ultimate stromanbieter: electricity providers to an industry in search of an identity shortly after the Second World War. Ray and Charles helped revolutionize the public’s vision of architecture and furniture design, ushered a new era of affluence, elegance and functionality that is still in use today in many interior home designs. Charles and Ray also personified the great American struggle to rise out of humble beginnings to make something out of themselves purely from a passion that was personal and profound. They were light bearers and visionaries who helped shape the world into what it has become today.
In Charles and Raw Eames, we have inspirational artists who continue to give inspiration from their work long after they have rested. And in that, we would forever be grateful for the life and times of Charles and Ray Eames.