- c1891-2018 (Creation)
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Items in The Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh collection include: furniture, watercolours, drawings, architectural drawings, design drawings, sketchbooks, metalwork and photographs.
The majority of Mackintosh's three-dimensional work was created with the help of a small number of patrons within a short period of intense activity between 1896 and 1910. Francis Newbery was headmaster of The Glasgow School of Art at the time and was supportive of Mackintosh's ultimately successful bid to design a new art school building, in 1896 - his most prestigious undertaking. For Miss Kate Cranston he designed a series of Glasgow tearoom interiors and for the businessmen William Davidson and Walter Blackie, he was commissioned to design large private houses, 'Windyhill' in Kilmacolm and 'The Hill House' in Helensburgh. In Europe, the originality of Mackintosh's style was quickly appreciated and in 1900 he was invited to participate at the 8th Vienna Secession.
In 1902 Mackintosh was invited to participate at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art in Turin and later at exhibitions in Moscow and Berlin. Despite this success Mackintosh's work met with considerable indifference at home. Few private clients were sufficiently sympathetic to want his 'total design' of house and interior and he was incapable of compromise.
By 1914 Mackintosh had despaired of ever receiving true recognition in Glasgow and together with his wife Margaret Macdonald he moved, temporarily, to Walberswick on the Suffolk Coastline (in England), where he painted many fine flower studies in watercolour. In 1915 the Mackintoshes settled in London and for the next few years Mackintosh attempted to resume practice as an architect and designer. The designs he produced at this time for textiles, for the 'Dug-out' Tea Room in Glasgow and the dramatic interiors for 78 Derngate in Northampton, England show him working in a bold new style of decoration, using primary colours and geometric motifs.
In 1923 the Mackintoshes left London for the South of France, finally living in Port Vendres where Mackintosh gave up all thoughts of architecture and design and devoted himself entirely to painting landscapes. He died in London, of cancer, on 10 December 1928.
The majority of Mackintosh's design work, (including furniture and metalwork), architectural drawings, textile designs and watercolours are in the possession of three public collections - The Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow Museums, and the Hunterian Art Gallery at the University of Glasgow - although significant (individual) pieces can be found in museums across the UK and Europe, North America and Japan. However, some of Mackintosh's most important, symbolist watercolours from the early to mid-1890s are to be found in the collection of The Glasgow School of Art.
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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.
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Glasgow School of Art; Charles Rennie Mackintosh; Keppie, Henderson and Partners, Glasgow; Daly's Restaurant, Glasgow; William Davidson; William Meldrum; James Meldrum; Katherine Cameron (Mrs Katherine Kay); Andrew Graham Henderson; Jessie Keppie; Sir John Stirling Maxwell; Prof. William J Smith.
Two keys areas to the collection are the three sets of architectural drawings (relating to the Glasgow School of Art itself) and an important selection of early (1890s) symbolist watercolours. The GSA architectural drawings were presented to the School by the building's original architects, Keppie Henderson and Partners (formerly Honeyman, Keppie and Mackintosh). In 1949 Mrs Katherine Kay (sister of Glasgow artist D Y Cameron) presented the School with a series of important Mackintosh watercolours, some bound in a four-volume publication known as The GSA Magazine.
Physical Description and Conditions of Use
Conditions governing access
Conditions governing reproduction
Application for permission to reproduce should be submitted to The Archives and Collections at The Glasgow School of Art.
Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of material.
For further details, please refer to our Reprographic Service Guide @ https://gsaarchives.com/policies
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Collection Historical Note
Associated places: The Glasgow School of Art, 1901 International Exhibition, Glasgow; Prospecthill House, Glasgow; The Dug-Out Tea Rooms, Glasgow; Napton Church, Suffolk, England; Liverpool Cathedral; The Hill House, Helensburgh, Scotland; Windyhill, Kilmacolm, Scotland; Worth Matravers, Dorset, England; Certosa di Pavia, Italy; Italy; Port Vendres, France; Fetges, France.
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- Mackintosh, Charles Rennie (Subject)
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- Catalogue imported into Archon software and edited by Michelle Kaye, Archon Project Officer, April 2014.
- Catalogue exported from Archon and imported into AtoM during system migration, 2018-2019.