Item MC/G/57 - Italian Sketchbook

Italian Sketchbook (Version 2) Italian Sketchbook (Page 1) Italian Sketchbook (Page 10) Italian Sketchbook (Page 11) Italian Sketchbook (Page 12) Italian Sketchbook (Page 13) Italian Sketchbook (Page 14) Italian Sketchbook (Page 15) Italian Sketchbook (Page 16) Italian Sketchbook (Page 17) Italian Sketchbook (Page 18) Italian Sketchbook (Page 19) Italian Sketchbook (Page 20) Italian Sketchbook (Page 21) Italian Sketchbook (Page 22) Italian Sketchbook (Page 23) Italian Sketchbook (Page 24) Italian Sketchbook (Page 25) Italian Sketchbook (Page 26) Italian Sketchbook (Page 29) Italian Sketchbook (Page 3) Italian Sketchbook (Page 30) Italian Sketchbook (Page 33) Italian Sketchbook (Page 34) Italian Sketchbook (Page 35) Italian Sketchbook (Page 36) Italian Sketchbook (Page 37) Italian Sketchbook (Page 38) Italian Sketchbook (Page 39) Italian Sketchbook (Page 4) Italian Sketchbook (Page 40) Italian Sketchbook (Page 41) Italian Sketchbook (Page 42) Italian Sketchbook (Page 43) Italian Sketchbook (Page 44) Italian Sketchbook (Page 45) Italian Sketchbook (Page 46) Italian Sketchbook (Page 47) Italian Sketchbook (Page 48) Italian Sketchbook (Page 49) Italian Sketchbook (Page 5) Italian Sketchbook (Page 50) Italian Sketchbook (Page 51) Italian Sketchbook (Page 52) Italian Sketchbook (Page 53) Italian Sketchbook (Page 54) Italian Sketchbook (Page 55) Italian Sketchbook (Page 56) Italian Sketchbook (Page 57) Italian Sketchbook (Page 58)
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Key Information

Reference code

MC/G/57

Title

Italian Sketchbook

Date(s)

  • 1891 (Creation)

Level of description

Item

Extent

1

Content and Structure

Scope and content

This sketchbook consists of 81 pages of sketches made by Charles Rennie Mackintosh during his trip to Italy in 1891 funded by his Greek Thomson travelling scholarship prize money. The subjects he sketched are mainly architectural, with the one he felt to be most impressive being labelled 'A Caution'. Each sketch is labelled with the name of the city or town in which it was sketched. In 1890 Mackintosh won the Alexander 'Greek' Thomson Travelling Scholarship with a design for a public hall, which enabled him to take an extensive tour abroad from February to July 1891. He left Glasgow for London on 21 March 1891, sailing from Tilbury on the Thames on 27 March and arriving in Naples on 5 April. He then visited Palermo in Sicily, Rome, Orvieto, Siena, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Bologna, Ravenna, Ferrara, Venice, Padua, and Vicenza, arriving in Verona on 10 June 1891. The Sketchbook contains drawings from the later part of Mackintosh's tour, from 10th June, with sketches, mostly of architectural and sculptural details, beginning with Verona. It covers Verona (11-14 June); Mantua (14 June); Cremona (14-15 June); Brescia (16 June); Bergamo (17 June); Lecco (18 June); Cadenabbia and Lake Como (19-25 June); Como (26-27 June); Milan (28 June-6 July); Pavia (7 July-?); Certosa di Pavia (probably several days around 12 July); Paris and Chateau d'Ecouen (late July?); Antwerp (late July? - briefly visited on his return journey). It also contains several pages of designs for the Glasgow Art Club (1892-3) and the Glasgow Herald Building (1893-5). The drawings themselves are almost all pencil sketches, some of which are now quite faint.

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General Information

Name of creator

(1868-1928)

Biographical history

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.

Archival history

Glasgow, McLellan Galleries; 1933. Edinburgh, Festival Society; 1968. Glasgow, Glasgow Museum and Art Gallery; 1979. London, Architects Association; 1981. Edinburgh, Dean Gallery; 2005.

Custodial history

Keppie Henderson, purchased from them in 1930 and presented to GSA by Prof W J Smith 1959.

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Physical Description

Pencil sketches on white paper, bound in stiff cover of grained paper on brown board. Typed on cover: Sketchbook of Charles Rennie Mackintosh when travelling in Italy undert the auspices of the 'Greek Thomson' Scholarship.

Dimensions: 239 x 163 mm

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Related materials

  • Howarth, pp7-12
  • Architectural Jottings pp4-10
  • Macleod, pp22-25, 27-29
  • Alibo, Periodico Veronese di Cultura et Politica, Dec, 1979/1
  • Billcliffe, Furniture 1893.2, 1893.3
  • Billcliffe, Architectural Sketches pp.9-10
  • Alison, p.9

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Description identifier

GB 1694 MC/G/57

Institution identifier

GB 1694

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ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description - Second edition

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