A prominent feature of the Eames collection was a huge wooden whale over two metres in length, an anonymous work of North American folk art. Charles and Ray Eames were exceptionally fond of the painted object: it occupied a permanent place in the on-site studio and was also used in photo shoots – such as the first photos of the Lounge Chair. The smaller-scale reproduction of the Eames House Whale by Vitra is crafted from alder wood and painted by hand.
Charles and Ray Eames
Charles Eames, born 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri, studied architecture at Washington University in St. Louis and opened his own office together with Charles M. Gray in 1930. In 1935 he founded another architectural firm with Robert T. Walsh. After receiving a fellowship in 1938 from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, he moved to Michigan and joined the faculty the following year. In 1940, he and Eero Saarinen won first prize for their joint entry in the competition 'Organic Design in Home Furnishings' organised by the New York Museum of Modern Art. During the same year, Eames became head of the department of industrial design at Cranbrook, and in 1941 he married Ray Kaiser.
Ray Eames was born as Bernice Alexandra Kaiser in Sacramento, California, in 1912. She attended Bennett College in Millbrook, New York, and continued her studies in painting under Hans Hofmann through 1937. During this year she exhibited her work in the first exhibition of the American Abstract Artists group at the Riverside Museum in New York. She matriculated at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1940 and married Charles Eames the following year.