- 1845-1949 (Creation)
Level of description
Content and Structure
Scope and content
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
The records are arranged into ten series as outlined in the description.
NB. The earliest property records from 1845-69, added to this finding aid later, are under GOV/5/11
Name of creator
By the end of the 19th century Glasgow School of Art was one of the leading art academies in Europe and after early success in the fine arts, the late 1890s saw Glasgow’s reputation in architecture and the decorative arts reach an all time high. At the very heart of this success was a talented young architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh whose reputation was to quickly spread beyond his native city and who, over a century later, is still regarded as the father of Glasgow Style.
Born in Glasgow on 7 June 1868, Mackintosh was apprenticed to a local architect John Hutchison, but in 1889 he transferred to the larger, more established city practice of Honeyman and Keppie. To complement his architectural apprenticeship, Mackintosh enrolled for evening classes at the Glasgow School of Art where he pursued various drawing programmes. Here under the watchful eye of the headmaster Francis Newbery, his talents flourished and in the School’s library he was able to consult the latest architecture and design journals becoming increasingly aware of his contemporaries both at home and abroad. He won numerous student prizes and competitions including the prestigious Alexander Thomson Travelling Studentship in 1890 that allowed him to undertake an architectural tour of Italy.
Back in Glasgow, Mackintosh’s projects for Honeyman and Keppie during the early 1890s displayed an increased maturity. His design for the Glasgow Herald Building (1894) incorporated some cutting-edge technology including a hydro-pneumatic lift and fire-resistant diatomite concrete flooring. Later at Martyr’s Public School (1895), despite a somewhat restricted brief, he was able to introduce some elaborate but controlled detailing including the central roof trusses.
At a public lecture on architecture in 1893, Mackintosh argued that architects and designers be given greater artistic freedom and independence. He himself began to experiment with a range of decorative forms, producing designs for furniture, metalwork and the graphic arts (including highly stylised posters and watercolours), often in partnership with his friend and colleague at Honeyman and Keppie, Herbert MacNair and two fellow students, Margaret and Frances Macdonald.
In 1896 Mackintosh gained his most substantial commission, to design a new building for the Glasgow School of Art. This was to be his masterwork. Significantly, the building was constructed in two distinct phases, 1897-99 and 1907-09, due to a lack of money. Stylistically, the substantial delay in completion offered Mackintosh the opportunity to amend and fully integrate his original design (of 1896) which owed much to Scotland’s earlier baronial tradition with a second half to the building that looked very much to the 20th century through its use of materials and technology. Most dramatic of all the interiors was the new Library (completed in 1909), which was a complex space of timber posts and beams. Its construction owed much to traditional Japanese domestic interiors but ultimately the building was an eclectic mix of styles and influences.
In Europe the originality of Mackintosh’s style was quickly appreciated and in Germany, and particularly in Austria, he received the acclaim and recognition for his designs that he was never truly to gain at home. He contributed to the 8th Vienna Secession and participated in international exhibitions in Turin, Moscow and elsewhere. He entered an open competition to design ‘A House for an Art Lover’, put forward by a German design journal, Zeitschrift fur Innendekoration, in 1900. Although he failed to win the competition, his architectural designs were judged to be of such a high standard that they were later reproduced as a portfolio of prints.
Back in Scotland at The Hill House in Helensburgh (1904), the publisher Walter Blackie commissioned Mackintosh to design a substantial family home. In its appearance, it owed much to his House for an Art Lover designs and an earlier completed domestic commission, Windyhill (1900). Externally, The Hill House was notable for its simple and solid massed forms with little ornamentation, yet internally the rooms exuded light and space, and the use of colour and decoration was carefully conceived.
Throughout his career Mackintosh relied on just a handful of patrons and supporters. The Glasgow businesswoman Catherine Cranston proved to be one of his most influential and her series of tearoom interiors (designed and furnished between 1896-1917) provided him with a virtual freedom to experiment. Responsible for their ‘total design’ Mackintosh provided the tearooms with furniture (including the dramatic high-back chairs), light fittings, wall decorations and even the cutlery.
Despite success in Europe and the support of clients such as Blackie and Cranston, Mackintosh’s work met with considerable indifference at home and his career soon declined. Few private clients were sufficiently sympathetic to want his ‘total design’ of house and interior. He entered the competition to design a cathedral for the City of Liverpool (1902) but although his design showed a Gothic quality as requested, his entry was rejected and his design for Scotland Street School (1906) in Glasgow was to be his last public commission.
By 1914 Mackintosh had despaired of ever receiving the level of recognition in Glasgow that he felt he deserved. He became increasingly obstinate and incapable of compromise and it is known that this exerted unnecessary pressures on his colleagues. In an attempt to resurrect his career, Mackintosh resigned from the practice and with his wife Margaret Macdonald moved to London.
This was unfortunate timing, for with the onset of the First World War all building work was severely restricted. Adventurous plans for a suite of artists’ studios and a theatre were never built. However, after making adjustments to the exterior of a mid-terraced house at 78 Derngate in Northampton (1916), the client W J Bassett-Lowke commissioned Mackintosh to redecorate a number of the building’s interiors including the Guests’ Bedroom (1919). These designs show him working in a bold new style of decoration and construction, using primary colours and geometric motifs. It was an output of extraordinary vitality and originality but it went virtually unheeded.
A move to the South of France in 1923 signalled the end of Mackintosh’s three-dimensional career and the last years of his life were spent painting. He died in London on 10 December 1928.
Name of creator
The Glasgow School of Art has its origins in the Glasgow Government School of Design, which was established on 6 January 1845. The Glasgow Government School of Design was one of twenty similar institutions established in the United Kingdom's manufacturing centres between 1837 and 1851. Set up as a consequence of the evidence given to the House of Commons Select Committee on Arts and their connection with Manufactures of 1835-1836, the Government Schools hoped to improve the quality of the country's product design through a system of education that provided training in design for industry. Somerset House was the first of such schools to be established, opening in 1837, and others followed throughout the provinces.
In 1853 the Glasgow Government School of Design changed its name to the Glasgow School of Art. Following the receipt of some funding from the Haldane Academy Trust, (a trust set up by James Haldane, a Glasgow engraver, in 1833), The Glasgow School of Art was required to incorporate the name of the trust into its title. Consequently, it became the Glasgow School of Art and Haldane Academy, although by 1891 the "Haldane Academy" was dropped from the title. Glasgow School of Art was incorporated in 1892. In 1901 the Glasgow School of Art was designated a Central Institution for Higher Art Education in Glasgow and the West of Scotland.
Initially the School was located at 12 Ingram Street, Glasgow, but in 1869, it moved to the Corporation Buildings on Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. In 1897 work started on a new building to house the School of Art on Renfrew Street, Glasgow. The building was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, former pupil of The Glasgow School of Art. The first half of the building was completed in 1899 and the second in 1909.
The Government Schools ran courses in elementary drawing, shading from the flat, shading from casts, chiaroscuro painting, colouring, figure drawing from the flat, figure drawing from the round, painting the figure, geometrical drawing, perspective, modelling and design. All these courses were introduced from the start at the Glasgow School apart from that of design. The course in design was the "summit of the system" where students came up with original designs for actual manufactures or decorative purposes and it was not until 1849, when Charles Heath Wilson became headmaster, that classes in design began to be taught. Also in this year Bruce Bell was engaged to teach mechanical and architectural drawing.
After 1853 the above pattern of courses was extended to 26 stages which formed the national curriculum for art schools. This system was known as the South Kensington system. An Art Masters could be awarded by gaining certificates in the available subjects. There was no restriction on entry and students could take as long as they wished to accumulate their passes before being awarded their Art Masters.
In 1901 the Glasgow School of Art was given the power to award its own diplomas. In the same year Art 91D classes for day school teachers commenced which were later known as the Art 55 classes. From 1901 to 1979 the School of Art awarded its own diplomas and thereafter it awarded degrees of the Council for National Academic Awards. In the 1970s the School of Fine Art and the School of Design were established. With the demise of the Council for National Academic Awards, from 1993 Glasgow University awarded the School's degrees in fine art and design. In 1885 the Glasgow School of Art taught architecture and building construction conforming to the South Kensington system. Following on from the designation of the School as a Central Institution and the empowerment of the School to award its own diplomas, the School and the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College worked together to produce a curriculum for a new course leading to a joint diploma.
In 1903 the joint Glasgow School of Architecture was established within the Glasgow School of Art in conjunction with the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College. For the new diploma design classes were to be taught at the School of Art and the construction classes at the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College. The first diplomas in architecture were awarded in 1910.
In 1924 the Glasgow School of Art became a university teaching institution when the University of Glasgow set up a BSc in Architecture which was to be taught at the School of Architecture. In 1964 the Royal College of Science and Technology (formerly the Royal Technical College, formerly the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College) merged with the Scottish College of Commerce to form the new University of Strathclyde. Following the merger the Glasgow School of Architecture came to an end, the last students transferring to Strathclyde degrees and graduating in 1968.
In 1970 the Mackintosh School of Architecture was established. It is housed within the Glasgow School of Art and forms that school's Department of Architecture. Its degrees are accredited by the University of Glasgow and its Head is the University's Professor of Architecture.
The Glasgow Government School of Design was originally managed, as were the other Government Schools, by the Board of Trade and a Committee of Management representing local subscribers. Then, in 1852, the Government Schools of Design were taken over by the Department of Practical Art. This Department was renamed the Department of Science and Art in 1853 and was located in South Kensington, London. The Committee of Management was replaced in 1892 by the Board of Governors. In 1898, control of the School was transferred again, this time to the Scotch Education Department (renamed the Scottish Education Department in 1918).
The School became academically independent in 1901 when it was free to develop its own curriculum and its own diplomas, subject to the approval of the Scottish Education Department. The chief executive of the School was the Headmaster, renamed Director in 1901, and a Secretary and Treasurer was responsible for all aspects of the administration of the School. As the School grew, other administrative posts were added.
The Building Committee was established in 1896 by the Board of Governors to oversee work on a new building to house the School of Art. The School had initially been located at 12 Ingram Street, Glasgow and in 1869 had moved to the Corporation Buildings (now the MacLellan Galleries) on Sauchiehall Street. This accommodation had never been ideal and, with the growth of the School, was becoming increasingly cramped. As early as 1883, the governors of the School had begun lobbying for subscriptions to build a new, purposely designed art school. Through private and government funding, and with a large donation of both land and money from the Bellahouston Fund, they acquired land in Renfrew Street upon which to build.
An architectural competition was launched in 1896 with local architects being invited to submit plans anonymously. Working to a budget of just GBP14,000, the Glasgow firm of Honeyman and Keppie, submitted a design from the hand of one of their junior draughtsman, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The design was praised by the Headmaster, Francis Newbery, and after being independently assessed by the educational authorities in London, was finally accepted. Building work commenced in 1897 and by 1899 the first phase of the School, the East wing, had been completed, incorporating the Museum, Director's room and the original board room. There then followed a long delay whilst additional funding was secured, and, in 1906, an Extension Committee was established to consider the question of the completion of the School buildings. A Building Committee was subsequently established in 1907. The second half of the building's construction, the West wing, was begun in 1907 and completed two years later. This was to be Mackintosh's finest achievement. In total contrast to the earlier austere facades to the South and East, the West wing with its dramatic design and dominating windows heralded the birth of a new style in 20th century European architecture.
In the years after the completion of the Mackintosh building the School grew considerably and more accommodation was soon needed. Property on the opposite side of Renfrew Street was acquired between 1915 and 1926 and was used to provide temporary accommodation. The governors decided to convert these buildings properly and, in 1926, they issued an appeal and drew up a scheme for the extension of the School. The School extension was opened in 1929.