Deck the halls with LCWs (a rare rosewood version of the iconic chair sold for $7,500, not including commissions, last week at Sotheby’s), because ’tis the season for the television debut of Eames: The Architect and the Painter. Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey’s new documentary about the husband-wife design powerhouse of Charles and Ray Eames airs tonight at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) as the 25th anniversary season finale of American Masters.
“Modern design was born from the marriage of art and industry,” notes narrator James Franco at the beginning of the feature (and in the trailer, below). “The Eames Office was born from the marriage of Ray Kaiser, a painter who rarely painted, and Charles Eames, an architecture school dropout who never got his license.” For this first documentary to be made about the couple since their deaths, Cohn and Jersey sought to look beyond the giddy publicity photos and molded-plywood marvels to explore the private world of the Eames Office and the designers themselves. They plunged into archival material ranging from films to love letters and interviewed family members—Charles Eames’ daughter Lucia, and grandson Eames Demetrios—as well as Eames Office alumni such as Jeannine Oppewall, Deborah Sussman, and Gordon Ashby. The Architect and the Painter mixes mesmerizing clips from the Eames’ films and exhibitions for clients like IBM, Polaroid, and the U.S. government with never-before-seen interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of the designers at home and in their studio. Meanwhile, Herman Miller has launched a delightful companion website for those who want to immerse themselves in all things Eames before or after viewing the documentary.