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.
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.