Developed for MoMA’s international Low-Cost Furniture design competition, this chaise longue is a highlight of the nearly four-decade collaboration between designers Charles and Ray Eames. Ray trained in painting with the German-American abstract artist Hans Hofmann, who introduced her to the biomorphic Surrealism of Joan Miró and Jean (Hans) Arp. Charles studied architecture at Washington University, St. Louis, and later made his way to the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. At Cranbrook, Charles and Ray met and eventually married. Together they went on to create a body of work that includes film, photography, furniture design, and architecture.
A marvel of technical engineering and expressive form, La Chaise alludes to the 1927 work Floating Figure by the French sculptor Gaston Lachaise, a bronze depicting a stylized female nude elegantly suspended in the air. Its hovering design recalls earlier work by the Eameses, including their experiments with molded plywood furniture and sculpture. Eager to use new technologies and materials developed during World War II, they selected a plastic-and-rubber composite for La Chaise, which was part of a series of molded-plastic furniture they developed in the late 1940s and early ’50s.
Considered too “specialized in use,” the design did not win the competition, but it was singled out for its “striking, good-looking and inventive” molded construction. It went into production in 1990, cementing its status as one of the Eameses’ signature works.
Publication excerpt from From MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
This chaise longue was inspired by Gaston Lachaise's 1927 sculpture Floating Figure and nicknamed after the artist. It did not receive a prize because it was considered too "specialized in use" and too expensive to manufacture at the time. However, it was highlighted by the judges, who admired its "striking, good-looking and inventive" molded construction. La Chaise finally went into production in 1990 and is now one of the Eameses's signature works.
Gallery label from What Was Good Design? MoMA's Message, 1944-56, May 6, 2009–January 10, 2011.