“Let Glasgow Flourish” can we read on the city of Glasgow coat of arms…
Charles Rennie Mackintosh is certainly the artist who most contributed to make Glasgow flourish! The Art Nouveau style he gave to a number of buildings in his native town, and which came to be known as ‘The Glasgow Style’, has become famous all over the world and the Mackintosh Trail in Glasgow attracts many visitors today.
One of the main characteristics of Mackintosh’s style is a harmonious combination of organic and geometric elements which contribute with a very adequate choice of colours and light to the refined and quiet atmosphere we immediately feel when we visit a place designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Very recognizable and quite typical of his art are the emblematic rose and the little squares which we can find everywhere.
Glasgow School of Art, the Willow Tearooms, Queen’s Cross Church, the House for an Art Lover (built posthumously in the 1990s after Mackintosh’s plans, as marvellously told by Graham Roxburgh in Building the Dream), Mackintosh Lighthouse , Hill House are the most famous buildings designed by Mackintosh in or around Glasgow.
But it would be quite unfair to limit our interest to Mackintosh’s architecture and design without saying a word about his art as a painter. Charles Rennie Mackintosh also signed a number of remarkable watercolours mainly painted in England and France in the last years of his life. This part of his life, however, and especially the years he spent in Roussillon, has often been neglected by his biographers though Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald probably spent there the happiest years of their life. The artist loved the place so much that he asked his wife to scatter his ashes in the bay of Port Vendres…
From Olette, the Mackintoshes continued on up to Mont-Louis (…)
Mackintosh called it ‘fairyland.’ In the spring wild mountain flowers carpeted the meadows in colour and he did a number of flower paintings here. (Robin Chrichton – Monsieur Mackintosh)
Considerable work has been done recently by the ‘Association CRM en Roussillon’ and his President Robin Crichton to make known the beautiful watercolours ‘Toshy’ had painted there. Robin Crichton is the author of Monsieur Mackintosh, a very useful book for those who want to follow “Le chemin de Mackintosh” in Roussillon, France.
Flowers, landscapes, houses and farms, villages take life under Mackintosh’s brush… but it had been his dream to become a painter.
In 2005, there was an exhibition of Mackintosh’s work in Edinburgh focusing on the artist’s watercolours. Below is an interesting article I’ve found in The Scotsman about this event. It is appropriately entitled ‘The many colours of Mackintosh’
HE WAS one of the most influential designers of the 20th century, creating a style that became the epitome of Scottish art nouveau.
His trademark images adorn everything from calendars to tea mugs and examples of his original work – including chairs, tables and cutlery – are among the most collectable of any Scottish artist.
His architectural designs are equally renowned, with the famous School of Art building and the Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow still visited by fans from around the world.
But a new exhibition of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s work opening in Edinburgh is set to lift the lid on a lesser known side of the artist. Organisers hope to display more than 40 watercolour paintings created by the artist in the last years of his life (…)
Charles Rennie Mackintosh was the son of a police superintendent, and one of 11 siblings. His early life was spent in Dennistown, a community on the fringes of Glasgow. There his father, who was a keen gardener, planted the ‘Garden of Eden’ on a plot of land next to the Mackintosh family home. This was to instill and inspire a love for nature in the young Charles, something he would refer to his whole life.
His intention to devote himself to watercolour painting was perhaps not so suprising in the light of his life-long affinity with nature and sketching.
(Mackintosh by Tamsin Pickeral Flame Tree Publishing 2005)
The Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery in Glasgow displays a number of Mackintosh’s watercolours but it also shelters the Mackintosh House. We spent hours lingering from room to room there so that we finally lacked time to visit the gallery. We’re all the more eager to go back there than we have now accomplished our first pilgrimage on the Mackintosh Trail in Roussillon
In Remembering Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Alistair Moffat (one of my favourite Scottish historians), perfectly expresses what we felt after visiting the Mackintosh House :
“Luckily there were very few other visitors and I was able to be alone in the rooms for long periods. It was spellbinding. In the studio-drawing room I genuinely felt that I was standing in a complete and perfect work of art… I can remember leaving the art gallery very quickly, not looking at any other exhibits, not wishing to burst the bubble of what I had felt in those interiors (…)”
Looking forward to seeing Mackintosh’s watercolours in the museum I’ve found beautiful reproductions of them on The Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery website. Every reproduction is accompanied with very interesting notes about the paintings.
Petunia, Walberswick 1914 Source The Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery University of Glasgow
Willow Herb, Buxstead 1919 Source The Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery University of Glasgow
Mimosa january 1924 Source The Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery University of Glasgow
Pine Cones 1925 Source The Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery University of Glasgow
La Rue du Soleil, Port Vendres 1926 Source The Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery University of Glasgow
The Little Bay, Port Vendres 1927 Source The Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery University of Glasgow
In my library, I have a number of books about Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I’ve already quoted two of them above. Below are two other favourite ones:
Mackintosh’s love and understanding of plant forms had been encouraged from an early age. As a child, whit his brothers and sisters, he had had access to what they christened “The Garden of Eden’, the grounds of Golf Hill House, Dennistoun, Glasgow, in which his father, an enthusiastic gardener, held a part share. His earliest recorded sketchbooks, now lost, date from the age of eighteen; some of their pages were shared with an artistic cousin, Margery McIntosh. Mackintosh’s fellow apprentice at Honeyman & Keppie, James Herbert McNair, would later recall how Mackintosh would go to any lengths to secure a twig, branch or flower whose colour or shape had caught his attention – even if it grew in a private garden.
(Charles Rennie Mackintosh Art is the Flower Pamela Robertson 1995)
I love this book particularly for it was offered to us by Iain & Margaret when we met in Carcassonne last April… what a kind and thoughtful attention on the eve of our pilgrimage in Roussillon !
And Alan Crawford seems to be one of Mackintosh’s best biographies, always listed in bibliographies…
Charles Rennie Mackintosh was born on 7 June 1868 at 70 Parson Street, in the oldest part of Glasgow. His father, William McIntosh, was a policeman, an upright man and strict in his observation of the Sabbath; his only unPresbyterian virtue was a passion for gardening, and the McIntoshes’ flat was always full of flowers. Mackintosh’s mother, born Margaret Rennie, is remembered as a woman of character, warm-hearted, and much loved by her family. In twenty-three years of marriage she gave birth to eleven children, of whom Charles was the fourth.
The McIntoshes belonged to the upper echelon of the working class. William McIntosh had a steady, respectable job and, perhaps, an instinct for betterring himself (…)
In December 1925 [Charles Rennie Mackintosh] wrote to Francis Newbery: ‘I am struggling to paint in watercolour – soon I shall start in oils. Forty-one watercolours survive from these years, but no oils. They include views of individual farmhouses, flower studies, and four deliberately naive views of cargo boats unloading. But the great majority are landscapes composed of hillsides, rocks, and clustered buildings. They were done wherever the Mackintoshes stayed, twelve of them at Port Vendres. He did not paint the landscape as he found it; he was, as always, governed by his imagination, and was happy to move lighthouses, promontories and mountains to get his composition right. And he liked to combine different viewpoints (…)
(Charles Rennie Mackintosh by Alan Crawford Thames and Hudson 1995)
The last word, I will leave it to Charles Rennie Mackintosh in an extract of a letter he wrote to Margaret, as quoted by Alistair Moffat in Remembering Charles Rennie Mackintosh:
My dear Margaret,
It has been a perfectly glorious morning – no wind, the sea the same as I painted for Fort Mauresque, absolutely flat and bright blue. I only got as far as the Tamaria trees where I sat on my three-legged stool and tried to do three things – to read – to look about me – and – to think. I know I did not read – I may have looked about me and I know I thought and particularly thought about you – wishing you were there also (…)
Bonne lecture ! A bientôt on our Mackintosh Trail in Roussillon, episode 3