Brain Pickings

How Charles Eames Proposed to Ray Eames: His Disarming 1941 Handwritten Love Letter

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A modernist fairy tale of true partnership.

Charles Eames (June 17, 1907 — August 21, 1978) — pioneer of the modernist aesthetic, endlessly quotable sage of design, rare interviewee, legendary visualizer of the scale of the universe — was also one half of one of the most celebrated couples in creative history, the architect/painter powerhouse he formed together with his wife, the painter and reconstructionist Ray Eames. And while extraordinary love letters generally have an ineffable and enduring appeal, there’s something particularly mesmerizing about epistles exchanged by two people who are partners in every possible sense of the word and whose romantic relationship is also a creative collaboration.

Joining these ranks of love letters, like those between Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, and Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin, are the Eameses, who fell in love at the legendary Cranbrook Academy and remained together until Charles’s death nearly four decades later.

In this disarming love letter — a true testament to the modernist ethos of piercing honesty, exquisite simplicity, and elegant imperfection — Charles proposes to Ray:

Letter from Charles to Ray Eames, 1941 (Library of Congress)

Dear Miss Kaiser,

I am 34 (almost) years old, singel (again) and broke. I love you very much and would like to marry you very very soon.* I cannot promise to support us very well. — but if given the chance I will shure in hell try –

*soon means very soon.

What is the size of this finger??

as soon as I get to that hospital I will write “reams” well little ones.

love xxxxxxxxxx

Charlie

Ray, of course, said “yes.” Fourteen years into their marriage, the romantic spark was still very much ablaze as Ray sent Charles this charming collage of a love letter:

Letter from Ray to Charles Eames, 1955 (Library of Congress)

Complement with the fantastic exhibition-in-a-book Eames: Beautiful Details (public library), inspired by Charles’s signature immersive slideshows.

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