Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Glasgow Style



Charles Rennie Mackintosh 1868 - 1928
When we first moved to Glasgow in the 60s the name Charles Rennie Mackintosh did not trip so readily off the tongue as today. For many, style and design was still in its infancy, being highlighted for some by the arrival of contemporary Scandinavian designs. Most people would struggle to tell their Art Nouveau from their Art Deco but the terms were slowly beginning to enter our vocabulary. I am not suggesting that Mackintosh was unknown, but the acknowledgement of his style and creative architecture belonged mainly to architects, curators of museums/art galleries, and those who wrote on design.
One of our very good friends in Glasgow was an architect who along with other architects was responsible for partially rescuing one of Mackintosh's finest domestic creations, Hill House, Helensburgh. Commissioned by the publisher Walter Blackie in 1902 it had become rather sad and neglected. It is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland who completed its restoration. The top floor is leased to the Landmark Trust, and it is possible to rent it for holidays.
Hill House 
It was through our architect friend that we discovered Rennie Mackintosh and his buildings in Glasgow and the surrounding area. We became intrigued by his furniture, paintings, metalwork, buildings and his collaboration with his wife, Margaret MacDonald, her sister Frances MacDonald, and her husband Herbert MacNair, who became collectively known as 'The Four'.
The Willow Tea-rooms designed for Miss. Cranston in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow
all above images via
One of Mackintosh's supreme architectural achievements was the Glasgow Art School which is still a working educational institution with the interior virtually intact.
Mackintosh's buildings were a complete package, he designed the interior of the building, the furniture, the curtain fabrics, often embellished with embroidery by his wife, the metal work and all the artefacts too.

 
If you click here you can see a 360 degree interactive panoramic of Glasgow Art School library which shows  the influences of Japanese style on his design. Do use your mouse to look up at the ceiling and see the design of his light fittings along with subtle splashes of red, green, white and blue paintwork highlighting the simple carving on the dark stained wood.
 above images via
Later in life, still relatively young, but disillusioned by the lack of commissions he became disheartened with architecture and started painting in watercolours. As a result of their financial hardships, he and his wife moved to Port-Vendres, a Mediterranean coastal town in southern France where at the time it was cheaper to live, and there he painted. They stayed in France for two years, before being forced to return to London in 1927 due to Mackintosh being ill.
He died the following year at the age of 60 years from cancer.
I wonder what he would think now if he knew the extent of his renown and the fact that Charles Rennie Mackintosh tours in Scotland are such a big tourist attraction?
Some of the watercolour paintings he did whilst living in France can be seen here.
 
via  

64 comments:

  1. Hello Rosemary,

    In spite of many forays to Scotland,we have never been to Glasgow. We should dearly love to do so and to go on a 'Mackintosh' trail would be something we should greatly enjoy. It is the prospect of looking not only at the buildings themselves but, also, at all the architectural details that combine to make the complete whole, which we should find so intriguing.

    The images you show here have certainly served to rouse our interest once more in this most appealing of styles. The School of Art reminds us of our recent tour of the Bauhaus University in Weimar and would be a place which we should, we know, enjoy very much indeed.

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    1. Hello Jane and Lance - if my memory serves me correctly I seem to remember that the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar was built at a similar period to Glasgow School of Art and also began life as an Art School too.
      I am sure that you both would enjoy doing 'Mackintosh' in Glasgow. Many of the buildings are readily located within the city, plus Glasgow University's Hunterian Museum houses many of his works and his own Victorian terrace house in Glasgow has been reassembled in it complete with contents.

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  2. Every year we say we must visit Glasgow and never do ... your post has made me want even more now. I love the library ... what a fantastic space.

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    1. Dear Jane - if you have the opportunity to visit sometime I am sure that you would enjoy it. The good thing is that now you can readily visit the School of Art and have a tour with one of the students. It is also possible to go on Mackintosh walking tours within the city.
      Hill House belongs to the Scottish NT, but if you are a member of the English NT then you get free entry to Scottish properties too. Although they are not in the English NT book you can find out the visiting times from the internet. Hill House is about 25 miles north of Glasgow, but it is also possible to catch a train from Glasgow to Helensburgh.

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  3. Interesting piece of history there and architecture. All looks lovely. I visited your link and enjoyed.

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    1. I am glad that you enjoyed seeing the link - it gives a good idea of how the building looks on the inside and how very 'modern' and forward thinking it was for the end of the 19th century.

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  4. Ten years ago,I visited Glasgow just for a day but looking attentively at your photos, I think I remember this kind of architecture and style. It was interesting to learn about the School of Art, you created a very enriching post, I have to look to the links ...I distinguish a Greek statue like the Victory of Samothrace in the last photo..?

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    1. Well spotted Olympia - you are indeed correct. It must be one of the many replicas that have been made of the Victory of Samothrace.
      Please do look at the links - the panoramic view of the library is worth seeing, and the paintings too are very interesting as Mackintosh has a very distinctive style.

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  5. Dear Rosemary,

    I enjoyed taking that 360-degree tour! I was familiar with Mackintosh as an architect, but as a graphic designer have known him better for the typography work that he did (one can now use a Mackintosh font on the computer, though I've learned that importing typefaces is a prime way to cause computer problems). I was totally unaware of his work as a watercolorist, and enjoyed seeing those pieces, too.

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    1. Mackintosh's life was sad, he was born before his time and was not totally appreciated. I remember seeing some cutlery he designed in the Glasgow University Hunterian Museum. It looked so contemporary that it could have been designed and made today.
      I will steer clear of importing any typefaces.

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    2. Regarding typefaces, when I worked at the newspaper and had any problem with my harddrive, one of the first things Tech Support would do was look at our font library.

      I work on a Mac and use Adobe programs, so I've ensured that all my typefaces are compatible with Adobe. Not absolutely necessary, but a little added insurance.

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    3. Thanks, I use Mac and Adobe too.

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  6. I hope that wherever he is now, he enjoys that present fame. I loved these photographs; it is a difficult, uncompromising architecture which at the same time embodies his period but also takes you back to ancient times. I find it rigorous and very beautiful ... like Scotland really !

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    1. There is no doubt that Rennie Mackintosh's Art Nouveau style is firmly rooted in his Scottish origins. It is robust, and very definitely male as opposed to the more sinuous, feminine Art Nouveau to be found in your home city of Paris - I think particularly of one of my favourites, Hector Guimard.

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  7. Dear Rosemary,what an interesting post!Glasgow is a very beautiful city,i'll love to visit one day!!I'm a Scotland fan!
    Wonderful pictures!!Wish you a happy new month!
    Dimi...

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    1. I am sure you will visit one day Dimi - I seem to remember you saying that your daughter had a Scottish boyfriend.

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  8. Hello Rosemary, I enjoyed looking at the Mackintosh paintings. Even there you can see his interest in tall, narrow shapes with a vertical emphasis. Scotland is lucky to have so many of his buildings with their original fittings. In the U.S., it was popular to strip older buildings of outmoded ornament.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - it is very fortunate that many of Mackintosh's buildings are still intact along with much of the furniture and fittings. At a time when they may well have been demolished the Rennie Mackintosh Society was formed to promote and encourage awareness of him and to preserve both his buildings and his legacy.
      I am pleased that you looked at his paintings which are uniquely his style.

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  9. Interesting to see the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, also his aquarels are beautiful. I did not know about him before, but I have a David Austin rose in my garden called after him.

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    1. I am so pleased Janneke that you can now put a face to the name of your rose. The rose was a favourite motif used by Mackintosh and appeared on his stained glass windows, tiles, metal work, and fabrics. I am sure that you noticed the little rose motif that I placed around him at the beginning of this post.

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  10. So great to see this man's work. I know David Austin named a rose after him but did not know who it was.
    Thanks for the great information Rosemary.

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    1. Dear Marijke - as I mentioned in the comment above to Janneke, the rose motif was one that Mackintosh used in various ways within his designs.

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  11. Charles Rennie Mackintosh's work has always appealed to me. It was lovely to learn more about him. Those links you gave us were so good too . I loved the tour around that fantastic library. Thank you for another interesting post. Sarah x

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    1. Glad that you enjoyed it Sarah - the panoramic view of the library is worth seeing, and isn't it wonderful that it still looks and is used in the way that he intended.

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  12. Nice buildings....I know this name off a rose...a English rose.
    The statue in the last photo...nike...is the same that I have in my back yard.
    Greetings,
    Inge, my choice

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    1. Dear Inge - I had forgotten that you had a copy of the Greek statue of Victory of Samothrace in your garden, but now that you have mentioned it, I do remember you showing it.
      Mackintosh was keen on the rose motif and used it in various different ways.

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  13. I've always loved the work of Mackintosh and I really enjoyed this post Rosemary. I've never visited Glasgow but one day I hope to go there and take in more of its history.
    Patricia x

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    1. Now that your husband has retired Patricia, you must go, and it will give your motor home a good outing to get there.

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  14. I knew hardly anything about Mackintosh so I enjoyed learning more from your post. Your lovely photos give a sense of his distinctive style. It does seem a shame he wasn't appreciated more in his lifetime and ended up disillusioned because of the lack of commissions. I've only been to Glasgow a couple of times and then briefly, but I will be more aware of his work now if I ever visit again.

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    1. Isn't it so often the case that artists and architects are not necessarily appreciated during their own lifetime.
      A few hundred yards from the Art School there is a tenement which can be visited owned by the NT for Scotland. It is really interesting to see how people lived at the same time as Mackintosh was designing his buildings. He was way ahead of his time.

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  15. It is so good to know that so much of his work still remains and is still appreciated! Thank you for sharing this with us. xx

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    1. Dear Army - so many buildings were randomly demolished particularly during the 60s and 70s so is fortunate that a Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society was formed in order to protect his legacy.

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  16. He was really a true architect in his heart, even when painting in watercolor it was all about buildings. Sadly so many great and talented people get their fame only after their death, struggling to make ends meet while alive.

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    1. Yes, I think that his water colours are very distinctive and as you mention they are mostly about buildings.

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  17. Hello Rosemary, I didn't have time to read comments above, so maybe someone else asked. Does the Mackintosh coat have any connection? or is that another spelling of the word and attributed to someone else? I have heard of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh rose patented by David Austin.

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    1. Hello Sanda - the Rennie Mackintosh rose by David Austin does seem to be very popular, and the rose motif was one of Rennie Mackintosh's favourite designs for stained glass and tiles.
      It is interesting about the raincoat connection because the inventor was in fact from Glasgow and was also named Charles Macintosh not Mackintosh. He actually invented the rubberised fabric about 45 years before Charles Rennie Mackintosh was born.

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  18. Do you know that our favourite Mark Hearld studied at Glasgow School of Art?
    (I'm sure you do.)

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  19. Wow! What awesome design!
    Proud to be Scottish! My father was born in Fife, Scotland.....maiden name is Kerr...
    Great post, Rosemary....
    Cheers!
    Linda :o)

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    1. Delighted that you enjoyed seeing his designs - that is another thing that you have in common with my Mississauga SiL she also had a Scottish father named Anderson.

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  20. Thank you for all the information about Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Rosemary. Last year a friend went to Scotland and brought me a box of Recipe Notecards featuring designs for the tea room wall decorations designed for Miss Cranston, with various traditional tea recipes on the back. Knowing very little of him, it is so interesting to see the architecture and in particular the Willow Tea Room. I hope to get to Scotland one day, and will certainly wish to go to Glasgow now!

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    1. Hope you do manage a trip to Scotland sometime - glad that this post has put a little more meat on the bone for you Patricia re: CRM.

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  21. Dear Rosemary,
    I like the work of Mr. Mackintosh and had the privilege of being able to view some of his furniture at the V&A the other week. I didn't realize that he painted as well. Looking at his work via the link you provided, I could see that they were his paintings. He has a style that is recognisable no matter what he does. I can't explain what it is but it is definitely something.
    Bye for now,
    Kirk

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    1. Dear Kirk - I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing the paintings, which I too, think are uniquely Mackintosh.

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  22. Thanks so much for the introduction (or re-introduction) to the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Rosemary. Of course I'd heard of him and seen a bit of his work over the years but I admit to ignorance about most of his designs. Didn't even know he'd worked in watercolors or lived in France or that he was also an architect. So I thank you again for the intro, Rosemary. Wonderful photos as usual. I was in Glasgow (just for a day or so) many years ago but never got a chance to visit much.

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    1. Dear Yvette - CRM's talents encompassed architecture, design, and painting, all of which he excelled at. Glad you enjoyed seeing some of his other works.

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  23. Hi Rosemary, the house is lovely. I know nothing of this artist. How often I write that sentence here. I like the style of the school signs too. Hope you two are well. I am looking forward to spring, olive

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    1. Dear Olive - if you ever come across CRM's designs I am sure that you will recognise it in the future, it is so distinctive. We are all ready for the spring - let is roll.

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  24. I love the CRM stuff and have done for years..... trips to Glasgow are always a real pleasure.
    I didn't know about the time he spent in France though, and am now more inclined to believe an American friend who lives in our village in France, when she says that he designed the floor tiles in her beautiful home.
    I've been away from blogland for a while and intend to enjoy catching up with what everyone has been doing. Its lovely to read your words and see your fabulous photos again Rosemary. Jx

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    1. Lovely to hear from you Janice and to know that you are safely back again from your travels. If your friend does have tiles designed by CRM then she is very fortunate. I am sure that if she wished it would be possible to actually validate them by getting in touch with the thriving CRM Society in France - the link is at the end of my post.
      Thank you for your very kind comments Janice which I really appreciate.

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  25. I have never been in Glasgow but have heard of and seen pictures of the famous Art School building, representative of the Art Nouveau. Here in Belgium we have the famous Boekentoren in Ghent from Henry Vandevelde, guess he was a bit the Macintosh from Belgium, famous for his Art Nouveau design.
    Marian

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    1. The sad thing about CRM was that although his work was unique during this period in Glasgow he found it difficult as he received no general recognition; he said only a few saw merit in his work and the many passed him by. Now people from all over the world recognise and want to see his buildings and designs.

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  26. Supper was deplorably late, for as soon as I saw CRM I had to stop and read. I've been a fan for years. So sad that like many he did not receive the recognition he deserved during his lifetime. I would like to find out more about his nephew Sylvan MacNair son of his brother in law Herbert MacNair. It would be nice to know the talent of the Four lived on. Any clues?

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    1. Dear Susan - hope the supper was not ruined by being late?
      As far as I know Sylvan transferred ownership of both his parents and CRM's estate to the University of Glasgow, being mainly furniture, papers, and artwork only. The university were able to recreate CRMs Glaswegian terraced house using the furniture which is now incorporated into the universities Hunterian Museum.
      As to whether Sylvan had any talent nothing seems to be known so I suspect he did not pursue a career in the art world.

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  27. Dear Rosemary,
    thank you for your post, which made me remember the few days I spent in Glasgow (and visiting that lovely tea room). Isn't it sad that some artist are denied to reapen the fruits of their endeavours?

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    1. Britta - how lovely that you have visited the Willow Tea Rooms. I went myself but it is more years ago than I care to remember.
      It happens to so many artists and yes, I think that it is sad, especially when they obviously have a great talent.

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  28. What an interesting post. It is wonderful that the public are able to use such a beautiful library. His paintings are appeal to me too.

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    1. The library is actually for the use of the students, but the public are welcome to visit on tours which the students tend to give. It is a very special place to see and visit.

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  29. i love Mackintosh's work, Rosemary, so enjoyed this very much. As you say, his style is now well-known and highly valued, so it's sad to hear that towards the end of his life he became so discouraged. I'dnever seen any of his paintings, but they are lovely.

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    1. Dear Perpetua - his paintings are very distinctive, I have never seen any watercolours by other artists that have any resemblance to them, but I agree with you that they are lovely.

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  30. Great post, and I think the Glasgow Art School building is so beautiful.

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    1. It is a great building and the joy of it is that they welcome visitors to have a look around - usually with a student.

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  31. I've always been in two minds about Mackintosh. I don't find his architecture and design particularly approachable; indeed, it seems rather stern and cold to me. But it is so original and distinctive, and so different from everything else that was being done at the time, and I applaud that. It's rather sad that he had to go away and do paintings which were so much less original, although they were very nice. As you say, he would probably be surprised and pleased to learn how famous he has become.

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    1. His style of Art Nouveau was definitely much more masculine and greatly influenced by his scottish background with his bold fortresses and towers. In contrast the continental Art Nouveau was much more feminine with its sinuous organic shapes.

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