Even if you don’t think you know who Charles Rennie Mackintosh is, you know. This Glasgow artist’s prints and design aesthetic is known and adored the world over. Last week, I spent the day with Glasgow Museums, in Glasgow, visiting some of the prominent places from the life and work of this visionary.
Let’s start with a little history lesson. Charles Rennie Mackintosh was born in 1868 and died in 1928; making 2018 the 150th anniversary of his birth. He was an architect, designer and artist, and he worked alongside his artist wife Margaret Macdonald. They both met whilst studying at the renowned Glasgow School of Art. Despite being part of the Scottish Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau movements, Charles Rennie Mackintosh very much had his own style – he was influenced by his own upbringing and by Japanese art, and he developed a simplistic design aesthetic that played with lines and angles, curves, light and shadow, and floral motifs. He is best known for developing and using the famous ‘Glasgow rose’ motif.
Since this is 150 years since his birth, Glasgow have celebrated by curating an exhibition that celebrate his influence on Glasgow style. The exhibition Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Making The Glasgow Style is on at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum until 14th August. Tickets are adults £7 and concessions £5, with Under 16s getting free entry.
The exhibition is a must-see as it contains over 250 objects, borrowed from the likes of the V&A and Glasgow School of Art; some of which have never been seen in public before. It contains not just Mackintosh’s work, but that of other Glasgow artists who were his friends and contemporaries. It charts the development of the Glasgow Style – a distinct variant of Art Nouveau, coming out of the Glasgow School of Art.
My favourite exhibits were the original architectural drawings for both the interiors and exteriors of some of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s famous buildings, and an early example from 1900 of his Glasgow rose motif – shown via an original stencilled wall panel from Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street Tearooms, whose interiors he designed.
Glasgow is also celebrating the 150th anniversary of Mackintosh’s birth, with a programme of events at locations across the city; including at two museums which are key players in his story – the Mackintosh House at the Huntarian Art Gallery, and at House for an Art Lover.
On my day out with Glasgow Museums, despite the rain and bad weather, we also visited both of these locations. The Mackintosh House is a re-creation of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald’s house (from 1906-1914), just metres from its original location. The original building was demolished in the early 1960s, but the interiors and layout was catalogued and preserved, and then put back together in 1981.
As you walk around their house, you are seeing their original furniture, laid out exactly as they had it, and the light and views from the windows are almost identical to what theirs would have been in their original home. There are even hand-sewn table runners designed by Margaret Macdonald. You can also see Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s desk, and armchair.
We also visited House for an Art Lover, which is a building of Mackintosh’s design, but which wasn’t built during his lifetime. He designed the building in 1901, as a competition entry, and it was finally built from his architectural plans in 1996.
The interiors play with Mackintosh’s use of light and shadow, and feature his Glasgow rose design, and his simplistic use of lines and curves. This place is definitely worth a visit, and it has a great, stylish cafe/restaurant for lunch and coffee.
If you want to find out more about Charles Rennie Mackintosh, this year in Glasgow is the place to do it. You can visit the Glasgow Museums and Glasgow Mackintosh site for information on upcoming Mackintosh events.
This post is in collaboration with Glasgow Museums, but all opinions are my own.
Photos 4, 7 and 8 are by Glasgow Museums.
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