The purity of E1027’s clean white
walls (above) was tarnished, in
Gray’s view, by Le Corbusier’s
unsolicited murals (opposite)
‘As an act of naked phallocracy,
Corbusier’s actions are hard to top’
Le Corbusier was fascinated by E1027, an obsession
that added an uneasy footnote to the history of the
house. While staying as Badovici’s guest in 1938 and
1939, he painted eight brash, lewd murals on its white
walls, performing this act of vandalism in the nude.
Gray was furious, and the resulting rift between herself,
Badovici and Le Corbusier never healed (a recent film,
The Price of Desire, recalls the drama). ‘As an act of
naked phallocracy, Corbusier’s actions are hard to top,’
commented architecture critic Rowan Moore, adding
that Le Corbusier was ‘seemingly affronted that a
woman could create such a fine work of modernism’,
so he ‘asserted his dominion, like a urinating dog,
over the territory’. The effect of Corbu’s antics was to
virtually erase Gray from the story of her own house,
contributing to her descent into obscurity. Ironically,
the great man would later drown while swimming in
the sea below E1027’s delicate white facade.
Gray retreated to a smaller house she built for
herself along the coast, Tempe à Pailla, equally iconic
and packed with ingenious space-saving designs.
Throughout the 1930s she was active in the Union
des Artistes Modernes and received a steady flow of
commissions, but by the end of the Second World War
her star had waned and she disappeared from public
view. She died in Paris in 1976, but not before seeing the
start of the process that would restore her reputation.
In 1968 Domus magazine published an appreciation
of her career, and she was amazed and thrilled with the
success of Le Destin at auction in 1972. Later, well into
her 90s, she worked with Zeev Aram, head of London-based specialist furniture retailer Aram Designs, on
putting some of her designs back into production.
Browsing through the Eileen Gray section of the Aram
catalogue today, the freshness and resilience of her
designs continues to astonish and delight.