This tribute to a pioneer of the Modern Movement of architecture charts the struggles and triumphs of a young queer Irish designer whose work flourished during the 'Années Folles' of early 20th century Paris but was overshadowed by her male colleagues.
Breathing pained life into these historical figures and the forces that drove them, only occasionally does Malterre-Barthes fall into the trap of writing dialogue that feels less like conversation and more like overt exposition ... Dzierzawska’s visuals are a subtle reflection of subject matter throughout. Not simply in the color coding of the different interweaving eras of Gray’s life but through more involved visual language as well. Scenes where the blueprints for the building permeate the page as characters move through them, for example, or a sequence where Gray’s artistic process is depicted as her climbing into and interacting with her architectural plans; the latter a quite brilliant representation of creativity that succeeds without seeming indulgent or overly self-aware. It’s a vibrant and occasionally dreamy style with the frequent breaks into symbolic double-page spreads speaking to the audience on an emotionally resonant level. Throughout, slightly caricatured but recognizable characters move through more realistic backgrounds, allowing us to connect with them on a very human level ... Eileen Gray: A House Under the Sun is more a book that asks us to recognize the suppression of the achievements of a pivotal voice in the arts as it is one looking to detail the minutiae of the subject’s existence ... Backed up with supplementary material it also invites the reader to investigate its subject further; a fitting aim for a book that seeks to redress a balance and give this important figure the recognition she rarely got in her own lifetime.
Many of Dzierzawska's clever layouts echo architectural forms, and the book as a whole expresses a tension between hardness—exemplified by square comic panels and white space—and the softness of her characteristic line. That sense of softness is perfect for evoking Gray's creative imagination ... For some reason Dzierzawska tends to make Gray look winsome and unassuming rather than sophisticated. But though this feels like a liberty, the book's bigger problem is its overall scantiness. While emphasizing how unappreciated Gray once was, Malterre-Barthes gives us far too little to appreciate. Gray's most memorable objects are only depicted on the book's endpapers; Malterre-Barthes focuses almost exclusively on the creation (and Le Corbusier's desecration) of the E-1027 house. Lacking detailed examinations of works like the iconic E-1027 Table (a particularly perplexing omission, considering that Gray designed it specifically for the house) or the 'Dragons' chair...the book feels impoverished. Eileen Gray also concludes too abruptly ... Eileen Gray: A House Under The Sun is an ambiguous tribute ... it's a thought-provoking, if incomplete, reflection on the relationship between genius and gender.
This gorgeous but fragmented narrative aims to bring overdue attention to Eileen Gray...but the snapshot structure resists any attempt to read it as a comprehensive biography ... Illustrated with soft crayon lines and a neutral palette—except where Corbusier’s paintings break the color scheme with bright intrusion—the layouts are lovely and evocative of Gray’s creative process. However, characters are rarely introduced with full names, and the strength of their relationships with Gray are hard to gauge in fleeting scenes. While the tribute will pique curiosity about a notable life, uninitiated readers are likely to rely heavily on the foreword and afterword (and Wikipedia) to fill its gaps.