Eileen Gray: A House Under the Sun
This gorgeous but fragmented narrative aims to bring overdue attention to Eileen Gray, a bisexual Irish interior decorator and architect who spent the majority of her life in France, but the snapshot structure resists any attempt to read it as a comprehensive biography. In fact, the opening scene focuses not on Gray but on the most well-known building she designed, E-1027. Swiss architect Le Corbusier stayed there and painted the interior walls with his own brightly colored murals, in defiance of Gray's aesthetics, and he was swimming in the sea near the house when he died in 1965. The brief chapters ricochet out of chronological order, bouncing from when Gray still lived with her lover Jean Badovici, a Romanian architect; to her childhood amongst a family of five children and an absentee artist father; to her first introduction to lacquer, a medium she loved; and so on. Illustrated with soft crayon lines and a neutral palette—except where Corbusier’s paintings break the color scheme with bright intrusion—the layouts are lovely and evocative of Gray’s creative process. However, characters are rarely introduced with full names, and the strength of their relationships with Gray are hard to gauge in fleeting scenes. While the tribute will pique curiosity about a notable life, uninitiated readers are likely to rely heavily on the foreword and afterword (and Wikipedia) to fill its gaps. (May)
Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled Eileen Gray's last name. This review has also been updated for clarity regarding the circumstances of Le Corbusier's death.