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Steinberg Meets the Eameses

Fiberglass Armchair with Steinberg Cat

Saul Steinberg


In 1950, Saul Steinberg spent two months living in Hollywood where he socialized with the Eameses—as well as other luminaries like Igor Stravinsky and Gene Kelly. During one notable visit to the Eames Office at 901 Washington in Venice, California, Steinberg transformed several pieces of Eames furniture by drawing directly on their surfaces. Steinberg had begun drawing on objects and walls the previous year, striking out from the confines of the two-dimensional page in a way that allowed him to experiment with materials, scale, and space—all familiar concerns thanks to his architectural training at the Poletecnico in Milan. In this case, Steinberg nestled the image of a sleeping cat into the molded curve of an Eames fiberglass armchair. This chair is notable because it was the Eameses’ first commercial molded plastic design and had only recently been introduced by the Herman Miller Furniture Company. The chair is characterized by its novel combination of seat and back into a unified shell, and it was precisely this innovation that provided the artist with a continuous surface on which to draw. The cat itself was a common motif in Steinberg’s work, one of a number of animals he often represented. For Steinberg, animals were at once ordinary and extraordinary. He once commented, “Dogs and cats are man-made,” referring not only to their long history of domestication, but also to the prominent role that animals play in the discursive world of symbolism and allegory.

  • Manufacturer: Office of Charles and Ray Eames
  • Medium:Fiberglass, steel, paint
  • Dimensions:31 x 24 7/8 x 24 in. (78.7 x 63.2 x 61 cm)
  • Item:2019.2.338