The Glasgow Style
1890-1918

By the end of the nineteenth century, Glasgow’s reputation as a wealthy, industrial powerhouse was well established and the city’s designers and artists, such as the so-called Glasgow Boys, were beginning to gain recognition. The Glasgow School of Art was growing in success, spurred on by the energy of its charismatic Headmaster, Francis Newbery (1855-1946). The School employed staff from across the UK and Europe to offer the best tuition to its students. Classes were developed to provide hands-on training in textiles, metalwork, and sculpture and, in the early 1900s, a four year diploma course was introduced. In addition to new developments in the curriculum, The Glasgow School of Art Club was active in encouraging students to socialise, sketch, and to put on musical and theatrical events.

This period also saw the development of The Glasgow Style, a distinctive approach to design which used stylised, linear and flowing motifs based on nature. It helped to boost GSA’s international reputation and to support the growing recognition of work by female artists and designers.

The opening of GSA’s new building in 1909, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928), is perhaps the most lasting legacy from this period.

Unfortunately, the outbreak of the First World War severely slowed down developments at the School as many students and staff left to undertake war work. The experience of these individuals can often be seen in the art work they produced during and after the conflict. In 1916, one of GSA’s alumni, Muirhead Bone (1876-1953), was appointed the UK’s first official war artist.

Browse images from 1890-1918 ›


Some key facts for this period include:
  • 1900 – Student Numbers: 661
  • 1901 – Four year diplomas introduced including the Diploma in Art
  • 1901 – Student Numbers: 776
  • 1901 – School becomes academically independent given power to develop its own curriculum and award its own diplomas
  • 1901 – School is divided into four Departments: Drawing and Painting; Modelling and Sculpture; Design and Decorative Art; and Architecture
  • 1902 – Student Numbers: 832
  • 1902 – Francis Newbery organises Scottish Section for Turin International Exhibition
  • 1903 – Bram Stoker (author of Dracula) endows a prize for ‘Most imaginative piece of work’
  • 1903 – Glasgow School of Architecture is established within the Glasgow School of Art and the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College (now University of Strathclyde)
  • 1903 – Student Numbers: 1436
  • 1904 – Student Numbers: 1484
  • 1904 – Diploma of Architecture course begins
  • 1905 – Student Numbers: 1188
  • 1906 – Student Numbers: 1293
  • 1907 – Art Needlework classes are instituted
  • 1907 – Glasgow School of Architecture Classes held at 193 Renfrew Street while the Mackintosh Building is being constructed
  • 1907 – Glasgow School of Architecture Club established
  • 1907 – Student Numbers: 1213
  • 1908 – Student Numbers: 1279
  • 1908 – Students of the Glasgow School of Architecture Club start a quarterly magazine called “The Vista”
  • 1908 – Weaving College is partially absorbed into West of Scotland Technical College
  • 1909 – Student Numbers: 1273
  • 1909 – Second phase of Mackintosh Building completed
  • 1910 – Student Numbers: 1303
  • 1910 – First diplomas from the Glasgow School of Architecture awarded
  • 1911 – Corporation Buildings refurbished into McLellan Galleries
  • 1911 – Student Numbers: 1377
  • 1912 – A small lending library is established for use by students
  • 1912 – Student Numbers: 1445
  • 1913 – Student Numbers: 1357
  • 1914 – Student Numbers: 1239
  • 1914 – Women’s common room opened
  • 1914 – Military sketching classes begin for officers of the Territorial Forces and Officers Training Corps (suspended in 1916 due to the war)
  • 1915 – Student Numbers: 873
  • 1916 – No.s 166-172 Renfrew Street purchased to house the School’s common rooms, refectories and some classrooms
  • 1916 – Professor Bourdon (Head of Architecture) is killed in action at the Battle of the Somme
  • 1916 – Student Numbers: 686
  • 1917 – Student Numbers: 585
  • 1917 – The Admiralty occupies part of the School’s premises
  • 1917 – The School grants the use of 170-172 Renfrew Street to The Red Cross Society
  • 1918 – John Henderson becomes Director (holds post until 1924)
  • 1918 – Student Numbers: 615
Design for a Glasgow School of Art programme
by Frances Macdonald MacNair, 1893

Design for a Glasgow School of Art programme
by Frances Macdonald MacNair, 1893