Ray Eames: A glimpse into her views on art Posted July 12, 2016 by Daniel Ostroff
In the September 1943 issue of Arts & Architecture, Ray Eames shared her ideas about art and, by inference, about design.
Ray Eames was a founding member of American Abstract Artists, along with Josef Albers, Burgoyne Diller, Lionel Feiniger, and several others. In the September 1943 issue of Arts & Architecture, she contributed an essay titled “Line and Color.” She also created the collage above, which includes two figures with parachutes in mid-air, an early airplane, a Jeep, a screw, an Army helmet, oil wells, the 1941 prize-winning Eames-Saarinen chair, a modern office building, and examples of modern art. In this diverse array of items, Ray saw what she described as “true and good and vital and therefore beautiful form.” Her carefully-expressed ideas on art are featured in the book An Eames Anthology and can also be read here:
Line and color define volume. That volume can be tangible or not but the space between two tangible volumes is nevertheless a volume.
It is impossible to talk about painting without bringing up the whole weary subject of aesthetics, philosophy and metaphysics.
The fact is that without any talk we are influenced by the world in which we live and by the synthesis of the experiences of the world by all creators. The engineer, mathematician, sculptor, physicist, chemist, architect, doctor, musician, writer, dancer, teacher, baker, actor, editor, the man on the job, the woman in the home, and painters.
For the past many years the western world has been working back through the maze of surface decoration and meaningless gloss to the fundamentals of form. Sometimes this has been an economic necessity as in the present war years, other times it comes from an aesthetic demand. Where the people through the sensibilities of the creators find it necessary to rediscover the non-essentials, hindrances of the past.
Why is it that today we are more concerned with the materials and design of a chair than with its covering or ornament? Why are we more concerned with the quality of the music than with the personal idiosyncrasies of the conductor? Why are the uniforms—the word itself becomes strange—so varied and differ so radically from those of former wars? Why are our houses being designed from the inside out rather than fitting the living to a predetermined style on the outside? Why indeed do we not only accept but also admire and feel intensely proud of the Jeep? A superb example of a healthy direction of thinking and feeling.
In spite of prejudice and confusion we are becoming aware slowly of true and good and vital and therefore beautiful form.
My interest in painting is the rediscovery of form through movement and balance and depth and light. Using this medium to recreate in a satisfying order my experiences of this world with a desire to increase our pleasure, expand our perceptions, enrich our lives.
Charles often commented that while some of Ray’s artist friends thought she eventually abandoned art, he argued that Ray was in fact functioning at a very high level as an artist in her role as the co-designer of all of the work of the Eames Office. Ray echoed that sentiment. When someone asked why she gave up painting, she replied: “I never gave up painting, I just changed my palette.”
Eames, Ray. “Line and Color.” California Arts & Architecture 60, No. 8 (September 1943): 16-17