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International Women's Day & the History of Mid-Century Modern Design

International Women's Day & the History of Mid-Century Modern Design

Throughout the 20th century, women were some of the most prolific mid-century modern designers. However, it is often their male counterparts who are remembered and cited more often in histories of the era. This latent sexism means that many current-day collectors of mid-century modern design are unfamiliar with the women at the center of the movement.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous piece of furniture in mid-century modern design, the Eames chair reinvented the way in which we think about what a lounge chair should be. Many mid-century modern collectors are quite familiar with the name Charles Eames, and for good reason. Mr. Eames has had over 100 exhibitions and installations at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), a well-recognized barometer of success in the field to be sure. Nonetheless, it was Ray Eames, Charles’ wife, who in fact designed the Eames Chair we all know and love. For those keeping score at home, Ray Eames has had (only) roughly sixty exhibitions and installations at MoMA.

The Eames’ certainly represent one of the most prolific couples to grace the world of mid-century modern design and style. Indeed, the Eames website regularly treats the pair in equal regard. However, we must not forget that it was not only Charles, but also Ray, who was at the heart of this prolific design studio.

This example repeats itself countless times when researching the history of mid-century modern design. Other examples include Charlotte Perriand and the Le Corbusier studio, Aino Aalto and her husband Alvar, and many others besides. While history is inherently complex, it remains important for modern collectors of mid-century modern design to familiarize themselves with the women behind the movement.