May 2024
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Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Modern Style Makes Glasgow Flourish!

Hi everybody!

No green leaves on the trees yet, but my window is wide open this morning and a very pleasant spring atmosphere is coming up from the garden! Here’s the spring, at last! This winter seemed to be a never ending one this year!

House for an Art Lover - Dining room - Glasgow © Dalbera (Flickr)

Now, if you could have a look at the sunny room where I’m writing, you would be amazed by the number of books which are piling everywhere. Never-ending too, those piles! On my desk you would find leaflets, postcards, articles and two or three beautifully illustrated volumes about Charles Rennie Mackintosh. If you have read our recent posts, you must already know that we are now focusing on this great artist on Scotiana. With his modern style motifs Mackintosh is doing as well as St Mungo with his legendary emblems on the city’s coat of arms to make Glasgow flourish!

Art Nouveau - Roses - Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum © mike.thomson75's (Flickr)

Just read what Janice has written in her last post about the Glasgow School of Art, and the symbolic designs which are to be found on its façade. It’s a very good beginning to enter the world of Mackintosh !

Art Nouveau- Window -Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum - mike.thomson75's (Flickr)

We are no experts, neither in artistic matters nor in Mackintosh art but we like very much the Glasgow Style, as we’ve found it expressed in design and architecture, with its sober lines and delicate colours, its floral and geometrical motifs. The feminine touch is omnipresent and some Celtic and Japanese influences are clearly perceptible.  Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the internationally famous architect and designer was the leader of a group of artists who came to be known as The Four and who included the painter and glass artist, Margaret MacDonald, who was Mackintosh’s wife, also MacDonald’s sister, Frances, and Herbert MacNair. As soon as we discovered these marvellous artists we were fascinated!

Margaret MacDonald - White Rose and Red Rose ( Wikipedia )

So, if you intend to visit Glasgow don’t forget to put Mackintosh on your agenda. There is really something magical in his art! There are many places designed by or devoted to Mackintosh in Glasgow, so you will need to plan your Mackintosh trail very carefully. We didn’t and we lost precious time.

Glasgow Mackintosh Trail Scotland with Style Leaflet - 2007

We could have tried the one-day £12  Charles Rennie Mackintosh Trail Ticket.  Not only does it give you unlimited travel on the city’s subway and First bus services in Greater Glasgow  but it also includes entry to the main Mackintosh attractions. If you limit your visits to The Glasgow School of Art and The Hill House, which will already take you a lot of time, this ticket will be well worth the purchase, for an adult entry to the School of Art will cost you £ 6.50 and one to the Hill House £8.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh Scotland with style leaflet map

(Click on the map to enlarge)

The three of us are quite impatient to go back to Glasgow to visit and revisit all the Mackintosh places.

Below are some pictures of our favourite attractions:

Glasgow-217 Sauchiehall Street - Mackintosh Willow Tea Rooms © 2007 Scotiana

The Willow Tearoom where we arrived too late to share a good cup of tea with style!  So beware of the closing hours.

Glasgow - Mackintosh House for an Art Lover © Scotiana 2007

We were very disappointed to learn that we could not visit The House for an Art Lover that day because a wedding reception was going to take place there. The building architecture and the garden are well worth the trip , not to speak of the very refined meal we had there, in the  very nice setting of the restaurant, but we’ll have to come back there anyway !

Here’s an article from Wikipedia which explains quite well the origins of the house.

The House for an Art Lover is based on a design produced in 1901 by Charles Rennie Mackintosh with his wife, Margaret MacDonald. The building is situated in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, Scotland. Construction began in 1989 and the house was finally opened to the public in 1996. Mackintosh’s original designs were interpreted and realised by John Kane and Graeme Robertson (up to 1990) under Andrew MacMillan, with contributions by many contemporary artists. Original portfolio designs are displayed in each room to allow comparisons.

The house was originally designed for an ideas competition set by the German design magazine Zeitschrift für Innendekoration for a “Haus eines Kunstfreundes” (Art Lover’s House). Despite disqualification due to late entry, the portfolio was awarded a prize for “pronounced personal quality, novel and austere form and the uniform configuration of interior and exterior”. (Wikipedia)

Not being able to visit The House for an Art Lover, we’ve bought a very interesting book about this house. I can only recommend it to those who are interested by Mackintosh’s architecture even if this house was realised 70 years after his death. In Appendix 1 of this book I’ve found a reproduction of the original “Ideas Competition”  German document   published in December 1900,  together with its English translation . The following passage is particularly interesting :

Given the importance of colour in modern architecture, the inclusion of one or more coloured sketches would be welcomed.

Only genuinely original modern designs will be considered, they must be of distinguished aspect and truly artistic construction using space to good advantage; care must be taken throughout that furniture and fittings reflect what modern day trends have achieved in both technical and artistic regard; it ought to represent a kind of ideal modern home. It should not have a character of splendid luxury, but rather that of a refined well-to-do family home. The cost of building (excluding the heating and light installations, furniture, wall paper and decoration but including the staircase and the floors) shall not exceed 100-120,000 Marks. The façades are to be artistically distinctive but, above all, simple. The architectural features, such as cornices, window and door frames are to be realised in sand stone, with the ornamental details in sand stone or other applied material.

It is permissible and even desirable that an Architect and a Decorative Artist of modern tastes develop and submit the design jointly.

(from Building The Dreamby Graham Roxburgh 2006)

The Glasgow School of Art © Scotiana 2007

Our guided visit of the School of Art by a student of the school proved to be extremely interesting, especially that of the library. It’s no longer a secret, on Scotiana, that we are very fond of libraries.  How we would have liked to be forgotten there. Alas, we were not allowed to take photos inside the building so to compensate for our lack of images I give you a description of the library I’ve found   my Mackintosh “bible” :

The library is quite possibly Mackintosh at his most brilliant. Soaring oak posts support substantial beams holding up the gallery and rhytmically dividing the room into a space of unequalled harmony. There is an undeniable parallel between the physicality of the room and the concept of the tree of knowledge seen through the heavy oak posts reaching towards the central grouping of 13 lights suspended from the ceiling on tendril-like cords. The symbol of the tree was one that Mackintosh used repeatedly through his career and in all areas of his art. ( Mackintosh Tamsin Pickeral Flame Tree Publishing 2005)

The Mackintosh Church - Glasgow © Scotiana 2007

I always try to imagine an old building as  it must have been when it  was new, standing there in its past environment, without traffic lights, roadsigns and markings,  and with stage-coaches passing in the street instead of our modern cars… By the way, this church is not so old since its only  dates back to 1897. Here is what I’ve read on the church’s website:

The Mackintosh Church at Queen’s Cross is one of Glasgow’s hidden architectural gems. The only church in the world designed by the great Scottish architect, designer and artist, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Commissioned in 1896 by the Free Church, the simplicity of the design is inspiring. The windows are Gothic in character, yet are infused with the Mackintosh spirit, and the floral motifs he affected can be easily recognised, particularly on the tracery of the large western window above the chancel.

Queen’s Cross Church was turned into the headquarters for the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society in 1977 and when we went there our visit happened to be quite restricted because of a special event which was taking place there at the same moment. A very beautiful place and quite peaceful too !

The Hill House - Helensburgh © 2007 Scotiana

“Every detail inside, as well as outside, received his careful, I might say loving, attention”.  (Walter Blackie)

Last but not least, here’s Hill House, a beautiful house situated outside Glasgow, in a peaceful environnement and surrounded by a very nice garden …No doubt, it’s one of our favourites !

Alas, here again, we were not allowed to take photos  inside the building.

Here are two other very interesting extracts from my Mackintosh “bible”, describing the exterior of the building :

The Hill House was commissioned by Walter Blackie in 1902 and is considered to be one of the most successful domestic buildings that Mackintosh completed in contrast to the Scottish vernacular treatment of the exterior, the interior is evocative of Oriental influence and has a continuing theme of the rose motif.

Mackintosh’s L-shape floor plan allowed the living quarters to sit on one axis, while the service areas were kept separate on their own axis. At The Hill House the join between them is marked by an unusual, round stairwell encased within a turret. This design was unusual in domestic architecture at this time and was further emphasized by the smaller turreted tool shed sitting below it. The exterior looks to the tradition of Baronial Scottish architecture in spirit and rendering with the time-worn use of harling on the outside walls. The surprising Mackintosh twist, however, is displayed through his use of highly varied window shapes. ( Mackintosh Tamsin Pickeral Flame Tree Publishing 2005)

Monsieur Mackintosh: The Travels And Paintings of Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the Pyrenees Orientales 1923-1927 Luath Press Ltd 2006

But I would not end this post without adding a French note… did you know Mr Mackintosh and his wife Margaret, had spent several years of their life in the south of France… I will tell you more about that as soon as I receive the above book…

A très bientôt  !


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