Charles And Ray Eames

Ray & Charles Eames at Cranbrook Academy of Art - Credit: DC Hillier -

Would California modernism have been the same without Charles and Ray Eames?  This architectural and design power couple made groundbreaking and historic contributions to this style and others.

The Eames will win awards and accolades for improving and reshaping the world we live in.  So, theoretically, it could’ve made a huge difference!

The Eames Office opened in 1943. It was located at 901 Abbot Kinney Boulevard – Venice, Los Angeles, California.   The cornucopia of work that flowed from their office was astounding.

It included architecture, furniture, films, exhibition designs, and much much more.

They were two of the most influential modernist designers of the twentieth century.  After Charles died in 1978 and Ray died in 1988 the office closed.


Modernism was a socially progressive movement distancing itself from all traditional forms of art, style & philosophy, etc.  Starting in the early 20th Century, it will heavily influence the 1950s and evolve into “late-modernism” after 1960.  For instance, futuristic architecture by Eero Saarinen and artworks by Pablo Picasso.

Some critics say modernism ended in 1939.  Others contest that it was post-war (World War II) and those trends continued past the ’60s. There are valid arguments on both sides. We contend that the golden age of modern design thrived between 1945 – 1972.  During this era, The Eames produced some of their most iconic creations.  For example, the 1956 Eames Lounge Chair.  In the early 1980s, post-modernism evolved as a departure from the modernism movement.

Architect & Artist Turned Modernist Designers

Charles began his architectural career in the 1930s after his scholarship at Washington University in St Louis.  His advocacy towards modernist mid-century architects like Frank Lloyd Wright was unacceptable. Therefore, he was coaxed into leaving university & start his own successful architectural practice.

In the late 30s, Charles moved to Michigan to finish his architecture studies at Cranbrook Academy of Art. There he will meet the artist and graphic designer Ray Kaiser.  She studied abstract expressionist painting under Hans Hoffman and was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group. In addition, she was an established figure in the New York modern art scene. (see my documentary review)  Eames Architect Painter Film Review

They will marry and move to Los Angeles. in 1943 Ray and Charles will open The Eames Office.  Among all of the projects that were being produced, one of them was their home The Eames Housecase study house 8.   A progressive yet modest home and now a landmark of mid-century modern architecture.

Eames Office Products

The Eames House – case study house 8 was part of The Case Study House sponsored by Arts & Architecture Magazine from the 1940s-1960s. This was an experiment to bring modernist concepts to the masses.  It is now a historic landmark and the project was inspirational to architecture in the 1940s.

The Eames Office produced :Case Study House 8 - Credit: The Eames

  • Architecture
  • Art
  • Furniture
  • Graphic Design
  • Textiles
  • Toys
  • Exhibitions
  • Multimedia & Film
  • World War II Designs

A plethora of extraordinary work and products.  The scope is too broad to cover everything here.  For further product review SEE HERE Eames official site.

Charles and Ray Eames are the epitomai of mid-century modernist designers in my book.  The furniture, like 1947 La Chaise, 1956 Eames Lounge Chair & Ottoman, 1950 Fiberglass and Molded Wood chairs and 1953’s whimsical colorful “Hang it All” coat rack is sheer genius.

In its review of the century, Time magazine called the Eames Molded Plywood Chair the “Best Design of the 20th Century,” describing the design as “something elegant, light and comfortable. Much copied but never bettered.”  – Laura Fenton –  April 8, 2015

Final Word

I’ll let Charles and Ray give you final thoughts in their own words.  These quotes give you a sense of their mission, purpose, and humanity. I strongly suggest you watch EAMES – The Architect & The Painter, it is a great story and documentary of these extraordinary design superstars.

A quote from Charles Eames really sums up their designs for life:

“We don’t do ‘art’ – we solve problems,” explained Charles. “How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?”

Products The Eames produced were made to be stylish yet, first and foremost, fit for purpose.

“What works good is better than what looks good because what works good lasts,” – Ray Eames

Most modernist buildings are stripped of clutter, so as to show off the minimal architecture. Ray loved clutter. – Charles Eames

Ray’s contribution was a lot subtler, less overtly visible to the untrained eye. She had a sharp eye for detail, he had a head full of big ideas. She sprinkled stardust on his designs and gave his grand projets the human touch. She had a feel for color and a sense of fun. Without her playful input, his creations would have seemed austere. – William Cook, BBC Culture Section – Dec 17, 2017

California’s modernism movement would never be the same after Charles and Ray Eames moved to Los Angeles.

Eames: The Architect and The Painter – Trailer      

Watch FREE on YouTube NOW


Visit My Pinterest Board The Storybook Office of Ray & Charles Eames

Why was Beauford Delaney Under The Radar as a Modernist?

Beauford Delaney Photograph: Carl Van Vetchten 1953

To answer this question, we must first internalize the setting and environment that Beauford Delaney experienced. Though brought up in economic poverty, his talent as an artist brought him work and art education in Boston.

Beauford will move to New York City in 1929 where he will be welcome in the Harlem Renaissance Movement. He was earning a reputation as a genius & mentor to the bohemian art scene. He garnered respect and friendship from very famous and influential people. So, what happened?

Childhood Artists

Raised in Knoxville, TN. during the oppressive Jim Crow era (early 20th Century); Beauford Delaney and his brother Joseph encouraged by their mother Delia will become exceptionally creative.

Delia Delaney was a talented seamstress in her own right who instilled support, ambition, and strength for her boys to become artists. Beauford had already sold his first painting at age 14. His path was becoming clear.

Impressionism Impacts

In the 1920s Lloyd Branson was Knoxville TN’s most famous artist. Branson was known for his Impressionist style of painting and commercial portraits. He probably noticed Beauford Delaney thru his sign designs or other artwork on display in town.

Regardless, he began to mentor young Delaney and then urged him to study art in Boston Mass. I believe Branson’s influence never left the young artist.

Once at school, he became immersed in art history, visiting museums, and especially Impressionism and Post-Impressionism artists.

New York City

After finishing art studies in Boston, Beauford heads to the Big Apple to seek his fortune as a painter. Unfortunately, he arrived there after the stock market crash of 1929 which contributed to The 1930s Great Depression.

Beauford Delaney- Can Fire In The Park - representational abstract painting - New York City - credit: Smithsonian American Art Museum
Can Fire in The Park – 1946

Though times were tough, he got by with menial jobs, commissions at the Federal Art Project, and Charles Alston’s Harlem Hospital Mural Project.

Alston will afford Delaney more work in his salons which led to important associations with pioneers of the Harlem Renaissance.

Beauford Delaney made an intense impact there and found himself part of this surging movement. Eventually, he became a respected elder, an enigmatic Buddha, or Merlin that drew people to him like a magnet. His work was genius.

The abstraction, ostensibly, is simply for me the penetration of something that is more profound in many ways than rigidity of a form. A form if it breathes some, if it has some enigma to it, it is also the enigma that is the abstract, I would think.

Beauford Delaney

During The Harlem Renaissance, he would count Henry Miller, Georgia O’Keeffe, Stuart Davis, Norman Lewis, Augusta Savage, Romare Bearden, Countee Cullen, Richard Wright, and James Baldwin among his close friends and supporters.

The Disappearance of Beauford Delaney

You may wonder how someone with such unsurpassed talent and support could drop out of sight and not be rediscovered for decades.

Delaney overcame poverty in Knoxville TN and challenged himself to become a black artist in America during the Jim Crow era. That was an amazing feat in itself.

Yet, there was a dark side to the color and light this man revealed in his extraordinary paintings. Booze, mental illness and tortured complex homosexual tendencies, incapacitated him at times.

These things started to germinate in Boston while he was in college.  As he matured it worsened and made him more reclusive.

neither early success nor gracious spirit spared Delaney from the obscurity and poverty” that plagued most of his adult life.

The Smithsonian Art Museum

Indigent most of his life, he was a nonconformist to a fault. This did not help to define or promote his style and paintings universally.

His work will achieve high praise in NYC and throughout his inner circle, but not really accepted in the mainstream.

Move To Paris

Finally, The Great Depression would shut down The Harlem Renaissance era by necessity. Once a vibrant and vogue movement attracting folks beyond the black population ended overnight. The rich contributions of African American art, literature, philosophy & entertainment will forever live on.

In the 1940s Abstract Expressionism was KING in New York City. However, Delaney did not want to be associated with the “macho abstract expressionists” Neumann, Caryn E., 2005, An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer Culture. This isolated him even further in a huge movement that was exploding all around him.

He moved to Paris in 1953. Art historians will chronicle abstract expressionism as being a major factor why NYC became the new Arts Center of The World. In the ’40s Beauford first dabbled in this style but did not ascribe the paintings to abstract expressionism. Even so after moving to Paris; Delaney’s work will be panned by New York critics as irrelevant for the times.

It is ironic to note that His years in Paris led to a dramatic stylistic shift from the “figurative compositions of New York life to abstract expressionist studies of color and light” (Canterbury, Patricia Sue, 2004, Beauford Delaney: from New York to Paris, University of Washington Press.)


Delaney, it seems, never attributed his style to any particular art movement. For instance, “Can Fire In The Park” 1946 is arguably representational art; yet, it could be a forerunner of abstract expressionism.

Although he was extremely proud of Black Achievement; he never thought of himself exclusively as a Negro artist. He Had empathy towards the droves of people of all races. It came from experiencing and painting The Great Depression.

“No one knows exactly how Beauford lives. Pegging away at a style of painting that few people understand or appreciate, he has disciplined himself, not only physically but spiritually, to live with a kind of personal magnetism in a barren world.”

Once Around The Sun – author Brooks Atkinson

Delaney’s paintings seem to say, “I may be suffering, but what an experience this is”. Delaney’s work “is never depressing, though Beauford was often depressed; he could say yes to life in spite of the fact that life was kicking him in the butt.” – Biographer, David Leeming, quoted in Neely 1997

My Summary of Why Beauford Delaney went under the radar for so long:

This painters’ fall from grace includes an end of The Harlem Renaissance & disenfranchisement of African Americans which affected the black population as a whole. He was no exception. But, to be more specific:

  • Delaney’s move to Paris at a crucial moment that NYC became the world’s cultural center. Changing trends & critics would render his artwork unpalatable.
  • Abstract Expressionism was IN and Impressionism was out of vogue, so it seems.
  • He had a Style of painting few could understand or define so he’s classified as a modernist painter
  • However, when experiencing his work, you get that his passion is Impressionist, not modernist. (Impressionism’s influence on Modernism)
  • Delaney’s heavy drinking and fragile psychological/physical condition prevented him from promoting his work outside of NYC or his inner circle. Therefore not gaining the notoriety he most certainly deserved.
  • His indigence made him even more introverted
  • A 1988 exhibition Beauford Delaney: From Tennessee to Paris will finally give credence to this man’s contribution to the arts.

UN-neglected Today

This was an extraordinary and intelligent man and one of the most important black artists of our time. He was an artist’s artist and was virtually unknown.

Today his work hangs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Art Institute of Chicago, Knoxville Museum of Art, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Newark Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

UN-neglected today; Delaney’s work is on exhibition at Anita Shapolsky Gallery (NYC) and the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York City. Kind of a homecoming and vindication for this forgotten talent.


15 Engrossing Artist Biographies and Memoirs to Read Now

Beauford Delaney Bio on The Art Story site

Windfall In Springtime For Poster Connoisseurs And Galleries

This post is reprinted from an article I wrote in May 2013

It is springtime in New York. That means it is a great season for poster connoisseurs. The Swann Galleries will be opening their doors for their Modernist Posters auction which will start Monday, May 13, 2013 at 1:30 PM. Swann’s started the poster auctions in 1978. They are one of the worlds leading specialist auction houses. Specialties include several posters sales a year, antiques and other works on paper – such as photographs, autographs, literature and maps.

The Poster Exhibitions are a constant all year long. They include: The Modernists Posters (May 13th), Vintage Posters Collections, Monsters & Maidens: A Film Poster Collection, Rare & Important Travel Posters, The Complete Poster Works of Roger Broders and much more.

What Sells At Swann Gallery?

There will be Modernist Series Posters for sale here on May 13th, but there are events and auctions going on year round at Swann Galleries. This may be too rich for some poster connoisseurs (myself included). But, marvel at the caliber of works that recently sold:

Prints and Drawings

James A. M. Whistler’s – “Nocturne” – etching 1879-1880 $282,000

Pablo Picasso – “Homme a la fraise” – linoleum cut – 1962 $144,000

Rembrandt’s – “Self Portrait on a Stone Sill” – 1639 $72,000


Jules Chéret – “‘Théâtre de l’Opéra, Paris” – 1898 $7,200

Privat Rivemont – “Rajah” – 1900 $9,000

Montague Birrel Black’s “White Star Line” / Olympic and Titanic, circa 1910, sold for $36,000

So, as you can see the posters section is a real steal! Also, you start to realize that poster collecting is a very serious business. They can be as valuable as precious antiques.

Jules Chéret

You may have noticed this gentleman’s poster listed above. If you have read some of my other posts (in Arts & Entertainment) you may recognize the name. It was the 1860’s Paris, France. Jules Chéret combined his talents as a lithographer and painter who produced vivid brilliant poster art that was in high demand.

You might could say he is the grandaddy of what has become the “modern poster”. That was really the first poster revolution. The second one would come during the 1960s with the birth of psychedelic rock and roll and all the venues that promoted them.

Poster Investing

A Jules Chéret poster for $7,200 from Swann Gallery is quite pricy for many poster connoisseurs. But, there are certainly great opportunities on poster investing you may not be aware of. The burgeoning psychedelic concert posters market. These posters are 40 to 50 years old now and you can still find mint posters at a low price if you watch out for them. Dealing in this market is more approachable, investing hundreds not thousands!

The War Of Finnish Propaganda Posters And The Soviets

This post is reprinted from an article I wrote in Sept 2013

Posters go to war. The Finnish Propaganda Posters are actually some of the more comical ones. The posters depicted the doctor’s healing wounds, chefs preparing meals, cigars to smoke, and vodka that was plentiful. Commodities Russians were craving & being denied because of the war. These things (and much more) were promised if they would only surrender to the Finnish. Right! It is pretty insulting, yet funny in a twisted sort of way. That they would actually buy into that.


We just finished an article on Soviet Propaganda Posters, however it was centered around travel to the USSR circa 1935-1943. But, around this same time period The Soviets were at War with Finland. This would be called the “Winter War” (1939-1940) and the “Continuation War” (1941-1944).

The Finnish obviously had other plans for poster making. This time period was in the middle of World War Two (in case you haven’t guessed that yet). Finland has a deep history (albeit not a good one ) with Russia and Germany. In a nutshell, Finland was seized from Sweden in 1809 by The Russian Empire. After a civil war (1914) the new government was supported by Germany.

As you have probably deduced (after many turn of events) Finland would align itself with the Germans in World War II. However, They would never be indoctrinated into the Nazi Party and never swayed from their own doctrine, democratic government or military structure. The war with The Soviet Union is what was important to Finland.

Propaganda Posters

It seems the word that worked for everybody in this decade of war was propaganda! It means: influencing the masses with a one sided story largely through repetition. I’ve now seen propaganda as early as 1809 in a painting “Napoleon Crossing the Alps”. There were 5 versions done and all are preserved in museums today. – but, i digress.

Through the first quarter of the 20th Century, posters were being created with different purposes in mind and varying degrees of positive or negative influence. Some of the earliest posters I see are actually British Safety Posters. Starting in about 1916 with urging pedestrians to walk facing traffic. It was hugely successful and saved many lives. The total opposite degree would be Finnish Propaganda Posters urging soldiers to drop their weapons and surrender. Finland was, by far, not producing the only war propaganda posters. They were published by everyone (including America) because it worked and motivated people in the war effort. This difference (of course) is how helpful or destructive these messages were.

More Helpful Posters

The next wave of posters (unrelated to war) could have been the Soviet travel posters in 1929. This program showed the USSR as some kind of Shangri-La / Riviera type of leisure get away. While totally deceitful, they had a bright, cheery, happy and attractive feel to them, at least.

I did want to mention The American WPA Poster Program hatched from Roosevelt’s “New Deal”. While these came a little bit later, they were still very helpful posters to Americans. Although the messages being sent on ethics, good hygiene, bridge openings, parks and recreations and current events could be considered mild propaganda. It was receptive and helped put allot of people back to work including artists.

The bottom line is the vintage community posters, Finnish propaganda posters (featured here) or travel posters from Russia had a purpose and target market. They were made to motivate, persuade, and influence the masses. Usually for political gain, national solidarity, or economic rationale.

Who Were The Big Winners In Vintage Retro Art Posters This Week?

This article is reprinted from an article I wrote in May 2013

Some may say that collecting vintage retro art posters is just a hobby. Which it certainly can be. Many reproductions and third, fourth or even fifth printings can be worthless. But, there is a very serious flip-side to this. It’s collecting and investing in original, collectible, valuable posters in mint condition.

As you’ll see in this article, it is not necessarily pigeonholed in “rock ‘n roll posters”. (Although that in itself has become quite an investment strategy). Vintage posters can be quite valuable. They may have been created at the turn-of-the-century by modern artists in Paris (or) by psychedelic artists in the 60s. Nonetheless they are part of history and very collectible.

Buffalo Bill Posters

Five Buffalo Bill Posters were auctioned off at Philip Weiss Auctions -Lynbrook, N.Y. for $59,398.00 on April 20, 2013. The auction was mostly rare and vintage retro art posters in mint condition. Wild West, Circus, World Wars I and II posters were up for bid.

William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) was an icon from the Wild West. He was a show man, bison hunter and legendary soldier. These posters depicted him in these different roles. One with him along side Pres. William McKinley another with a running buffalo behind his portrait and another with Buffalo Bill atop his horse. And of course one with the Buffalo Bill Wild West cowboys was a favorite which fetched $5,463.00 alone. You might consider this a success for Philip Weiss Auctions who are hit pretty bad by the recent Hurricane Sandy. So, good for them.

Cape Cod

The Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority administrator (Thomas Cahir) recently purchased twenty 1940’s stylized posters to adorn the walls of the CCRCT (Cape Cod Regional Transit Center) in Hyannis. They were installed over the ticket booths. The vintage retro art posters were designed by artist Robert Kennedy. He was paid $2,500.00 with state funds set aside for aesthetic improvements.

Each of the posters are 3×5 feet and Kennedy describes the posters as “they are vintage style paintings made to resemble the travel posters or postcards of the 1940s”–Robert Kennedy. Also, Mr. Cahir states “The posters convey to our visitors that we can handle service to all 15 Cape Cod towns”.

Seattle Coliseum Concert Posters

“Vintage Rock Posters” owner Andrew Hawley is currently seeking Seattle Coliseum Concert posters from Led Zeppelin shows 1969–1972. The winning part about this piece is Hawley says he will pay up to $3000 cash for these Zeppelin Seattle Coliseum posters, in any condition. He is very easily found in any search engine on the Internet.

Does this article reveal vintage retro art posters to be real art? Certainly, it shows how incredibly valuable some are. The rarity of these posters definitely plays a part (not unlike rare coins or antiques). You be the judge.