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Happy Birthday Ray Eames

Ray Eames would have turned 106 years old on December 15, 2018. Today we celebrate her birthday by remembering her many talents and contributions to art and design. Learn more about Ray and her legacy in The World of Charles and Ray Eames, on view now.

My interest in painting is the rediscovery of form through movement and balance and depth and light.” –Ray Eames, 1943

Ray Eames (1912–1988) was born Bernice Alexandra Kaiser on December 15, 1912 in Sacramento, California. She trained as a painter, studying in New York under the avant-garde artist Hans Hofmann, with whom she honed her talent in the use of form, structure, and color.

Ray was one of the founders of the American Abstract Artists in 1936, a group that provided exhibition opportunities, lectures, panels, and forums promoting abstract expressionism at a time when it was met with pushback from many museums. She was deeply influential in the New York art scene of the late 1930s and played an important role in abstract art’s mainstream acceptance.

Ray met Charles Eames in 1940 at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, shortly after he became head of the Academy’s Department of Industrial Design and Ray had enrolled as a student. The academy played a vital role in the development of Charles and Ray’s conception of modern design.

Both Charles and Ray possessed a sharp eye for scenography, but it was Ray who truly excelled in art direction. A highly organized and visual person, Ray kept detailed lists of objects to be used in arrangements in showrooms, exhibitions, and photo shoots. Her keen eye for art was noticeable in her childhood as she experimented with fashion in her earlier years, crafting intricate illustrations on paper dolls as a teenager and sketching notes and outfit designs on cigarette papers as she grew older. Her interest in aesthetic grew in her partnership with Charles, as she designed patterns for many of their projects.

Ray Eames was a powerful and influential artist who defied the expectations of women in her time. She broke barriers in an era when women were seen as subordinate and not taken seriously in the arts or in business. Her partnership with Charles was unorthodox in the mid-twentieth century, but she cemented her place in history as a pioneer in her field with her bountiful creativity, talent, and drive, and continues to inspire artists and designers today.

The World of Charles and Ray Eames is on view through February 17, 2019. Find Eames-inspired gifts at the OMCA Store.