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    The House for an Art Lover : Building the Dream of Charles Rennie Mackintosh – Part 1

    The House for an Art Lover : Building the Dream of Charles Rennie Mackintosh – Part 2

    Mackintosh House for an Art Lover © 2007 Scotiana

    After our virtual visit of Queen’s Cross Church, let’s open the gates of the House for an Art Lover. Who could believe that this Mackintosh-style house has been built seventy years after the death of the great Scottish architect?

    Mackintosh House for an Art Lover Garden

    In Bellahouston Park, the colourful and well designed garden pays its seasonal homage to the memory of the invisible “maître des lieux”… here flowers intertwine their vivid colours round a black Mackintosh-style stand…

    Mackintosh House for an Art Lover © 2007 Scotiana

    On the white façade, the sand-coloured sculpture of a superb Tree of Life, one of Mackintosh key symbolic motifs, invites the visitor to enter. Unfortunately, as I mentioned it in my last post, when we came there we could not visit the house because of a wedding reception. How I would have liked to tell you about our experience inside this Mackintosh temple, which I know is full of treasures. We are very eager to return to Glasgow to complete our Mackintosh trail, beginning with this famous House of an Art Lover…

    Mackintosh House for an Art Lover Restaurant © 2007 Scotiana

    That day we compensated our frustrations by sharing a delicious and very refined meal in the House’s restaurant and lingering a long time in the garden, with our bags of postcards, books and “petits souvenirs” …

    Building the Dream Graham Roxburgh 2006

    Here is the book we’ve bought at the shop of the House for an Art Lover. I’ve just read it. With its beautifully designed ‘clair-obscur’ cover, a ‘trompe-l’oeil’ perspective with a door letting in just a ray of light and a Mackintosh stylised rose standing out like a picture on a wall, this volume invites the reader to enter a dream…

    Try to find the book if you can and read it. Then, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that after reading this book I feel as if I had visited this house. I’ve read it very quickly from first to last page, following the narrator in this incredible adventure. The artistic dream of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and of his wife Margaret had begun a long time ago and, if it had only been partly realised during their life, it is now given a second life thanks to men like Graham Roxburgh in Glasgow, or Robin Crichton in southwestern France . Both of them have written the story of their Mackintosh adventure, the first one in Building the Dream and the second one in  Monsieur Mackintosh .

    Monsieur Mackintosh Robin Crichton Luath Press Limited Edinburgh 2006

    When I opened Building the Dream I had no idea where this book would lead me. It’s very interesting, full of anecdotes and, last but not least, there are a number of very beautiful illustrations in it. I’ve made a lot of complementary research since, constantly shifting from the book to my computer, losing myself in the unfathomable cultural mines of Internet in order to learn more about the places mentioned by the author. So, here is the marvellous story of the House for an Art Lover which would have probably never existed without Graham Roxburgh’s intervention…

    But let us begin with the beginning, as does Graham Roxburgh does  in his book.

    Darmstadt Museum Source Wikipedia

    It all began in 1899, in the German town of Darmstadt, not far from Frankfurt, in the southwest of the country. The town was part of the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt and its sovereign was the Grand Duke of Hess, Ersnt Ludwig, who happened to be Queen Victoria’s grandson.  Under the influence of this charismatic leader whose motto was: “My Hesse should flourish, and the art in Hesse too”, Darmstadt had become one of the centres of the Jugendstil, or Art Nouveau. Below is an extract of a Wikipedia article which gives much information about this artistic movement.

    Art Nouveau is an international movement and style of art, architecture and applied art—especially the decorative arts—that peaked in popularity at the turn of the 20th century (1890–1905). The name ‘Art nouveau’ is French for ‘new art’. It is also known as Jugendstil, German for ‘youth style’, named after the magazine Jugend, which promoted it, and in Italy, Stile Liberty from the department store in London, Liberty & Co., which popularized the style. A reaction to academic art of the 19th century, it is characterized by organic, especially floral and other plant-inspired motifs, as well as highly-stylized, flowing curvilinear forms. Art Nouveau is an approach to design according to which artists should work on everything from architecture to furniture, making art part of everyday life.

    German magazine Die Jugend Source Wikipedia

    The movement was strongly influenced by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha, when Mucha produced a lithographed poster, which appeared on 1 January 1895 in the streets of Paris as an advertisement for the play Gismonda by Victorien Sardou, starring Sarah Bernhardt. It was an overnight sensation, and announced the new artistic style and its creator to the citizens of Paris. Initially called the Style Mucha, (Mucha Style), this soon became known as Art Nouveau.

    Art Nouveau’s fifteen-year peak was most strongly felt throughout Europe—from Glasgow to Moscow to Madrid — but its influence was global. Hence, it is known in various guises with frequent localized tendencies. In France, Hector Guimard’s metro entrances shaped the landscape of Paris and Emile Gallé was at the center of the school of thought in Nancy. Victor Horta had a decisive impact on architecture in Belgium.

    Magazines like Jugend helped spread the style in Germany, especially as a graphic artform, while the Vienna Secessionists influenced art and architecture throughout Austria-Hungary.

    Art Nouveau was also a movement of distinct individuals such as Gustav Klimt, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Alphonse Mucha, René Lalique, Antoni Gaudí and Louis Comfort Tiffany, each of whom interpreted it in their own individual manner.

    Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse 1905 Photograph: Jacob Hilsdorf (1872-1916) Source Wikipedia

    In 1899, in order to make his artistic dream a reality and also to make his town flourish by stimulating the local craft industries, Ernst Ludwig founded the artists’ colony in Mathildenhoehe, a hill in a Darmstadt park, and he invited artists and designers of Art Nouveau to come and live there, offering them not only a place to work but also good living accommodation, plus an exhibition building.

    Darmstadt Mathildenhoehe Exhibition Building - Wikipedia

    Art and design periodicals were created to promote the work of the artists’ colony and they flourished. In December 1900, Alexander Koch, the publisher of Magazine for Interior Decoration launched a competition to design “A House for an Art Lover”. The deadline was 25 th March 1901.

    The entry rules were very detailed and extremely strict (room sizes, parkland setting, original modern design, maximum budget). Added to a prize of 2400 marks, the winner would be “appointed for the development of the design and the artistic direction of the building work”.  This would also contribute to establish the architect’s reputation on the continent. The competition was to attract 36 competitors. Two were British, one of them being Charles Rennie Mackintosh. He was then aged 32. But there were only three months to do the job! This must explain why the Scottish architect did not have time to complete his drawings. His set of 14 drawings were much praised and considered to be the best but the artist was disqualified because of the missing perspectives.

    Finally there was to be no first prize. And the second one was attributed to the other British competitor, Baillie Scott, who lived and worked in England. However, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was offered the opportunity to submit finished drawings, which he did.  He finally won a Purchase Prize of 600 marks and at the 1902 Turin Exhibition, Alexander Koch decorated his stand with reproductions of his drawings. After publication here and there in magazines the drawings seem to have begun a more obscure life, as their author who finally chose to lead a happier life far from his country…

    It could have been the end of the House for an Art Lover if, several decades later, a man had not been there to get the drawings out of the dust… his name is Graham Roxburgh… but I will tell you more about his story next time…  the dream is going to come true soon…

    House for an Art Lover Bellahouston Park © 2007 Scotiana

    A bientôt for Part 2 🙂


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