Eames Documentary Premieres on PBS Highlighting “Less Is More” Idea

Charles and Ray Eames “pinned” by chair bases, 1947, as seen in American Masters Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter.

After more than five decades, the Eames’ chair is iconic, still looking both contemporary and classic. All their chairs’ use simple lines that conform to the body, melding form and function, aesthetics and practicality. “We solve problems,” said Charles Eames. In a first-ever documentary about the husband and wife design team, Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter airs on Monday, December 19 on PBS at 10 pm ET/PT, as part of the American Masters series. Narrated by James Franco, the film chronicles their collaboration showcasing their body of work and mindful methods – the substance of their style.

Eames' Organic Chair© Photo courtesy of First Run Features

Organic Chair designed by Charles & Ray Eames led to signature molded plywood chairs.

“The Best for the Most for the Least.”

It was the couple’s philosophy that defined the chairs, the furniture and projects for companies from IBM to Alcoa, as well as informing all they did, and the way they lived their lives. The Eames saw beauty in everyday objects, like the tumbleweed they hung from their living room ceiling, the spinning tops they filmed, and the arrangement of flowers they served as “dessert” at the end of a meal. They also believed their work embodied an approach to thinking and expressed an ethical dimension. The principle that guided their designs: “the best for the most for the least.”

Trailer for American Masters Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter

The film by Jason Cohn of Frontline and filmmaker Bill Jersey delves into the way the Eames met, how they worked with each other and the designers who played in their famed Renaissance-type studio in Venice, California. It explores their prefab home, Case Study House No. 8, and is filled with intriguing anecdotes from interviews with former Eames Office designers and colleagues, TED founder Richard Saul Wurman, art historians and critics, describing their creative process of “learning by doing,” and puts their pioneering influence in context.

Eames' living room© Photo courtesy of First Run Features

Tumbleweed suspended from ceiling in the Eames' living room, in their landmark house in Pacific Palisades, California.

Seeing the Beauty of Everyday Objects

From chairs to toys, jobs for the U.S. government to the 1964 New York World’s Fair, they didn’t shun from working for big companies for greater impact. “Everything eventually connects,” they said, marrying art to industry and technology with nature. Excerpts of their films are shown, including the genius “Powers of Ten,” their multi-screen “information overload” presentations, and images of their solar-powered “Do Nothing” whirly-gig whimsy. This definitive documentary reveals how the Eames saw design holistically, as a way of looking at the world – still inspiring and relevant today.

Eames Documentary Premieres on PBS Highlighting “Less Is More” Idea
A documentary that chronicles the innovative and influential design work of Ray and Charles Eames with a look inside their famed studio

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