Home   Architects   Schools   Objects   Library
 

 

 

 

 

 

WORKS / BIOGRAPHY / BOOKS

 

 

CHARLES RENNIE MACKINTOSH
 
 
 
 
  Name   Charles Rennie Mackintosh 
       
  Born   June 7, 1868
       
  Died   December 10, 1928
       
  Nationality   UK
       
  School   ARTS AND CRAFTS
       
  Official website    
     
 
BIOGRAPHY        
   

By the end of the 19th century, the Glasgow School of Art was
one of the leading art academies in Europe, and after early success
in the fine arts, the late 1890s saw Glasgow's reputation in archi-
tecture and the decorative arts reach an all-time high. At the
very heart of this success was a talented young architect and
designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whose reputation was to
quickly spread beyond his native city and who, more than a
century later, is still regarded as the father of “Glasgow style.”

In 1884 Mackintosh was apprenticed to a local architect,
John Hutchison, but in 1889 he transferred to the larger, more
established city practice of Honeyman and Keppie. To comple-
ment his architectural apprenticeship, Mackintosh enrolled in
evening classes at the Glasgow School of Art, where he pursued
various drawing programs. Here, under the watchful eye of the
headmaster, Francis Newbery, his talents flourished, and in the
school’s library he was able to consult the latest architecture and
design journals, becoming increasingly aware of his contempor-
aries both at home and abroad.

Mackintosh’s projects for Honeyman and Keppie during the
early 1890s displayed an increased maturity. His design for the
Glasgow Herald Building (1894) incorporated some cutting-
edge technology, including a hydropneumatic lift and fire-
resistant diatomite concrete flooring. Later at Martyrs’ Public
School (1895), despite a somewhat restricted brief, he was able
to introduce some elaborate but controlled detailing, including
the central roof trusses.

At a public lecture on architecture in 1893, Mackintosh ar-
gued that architects and designers should be given greater artistic
freedom and independence. He himself began to experiment
with a range of decorative forms, producing designs for furniture,
metalwork, and the graphic arts (including highly stylized post-
ers and watercolors), often in partnership with his friend and
colleague at Honeyman and Keppie, Herbert MacNair, and two
fellow students, Margaret and Frances MacDonald.

In 1896 Mackintosh gained his most substantial commission:
to design a new building for the Glasgow School of Art. This
was to be his masterwork. Significantly, the building was con-
structed in two distinct phases—1897-99 and 1907—09—
because of a lack of money. Stylistically, the substantial delay

in completion offered Mackintosh the opportunity to amend
and fully integrate his original design (of 1896), which owed
much to Scotland’s earlier baronial tradition, with a second half
to the building that looked very much to the 20th century
through its use of materials and technology. Most dramatic of
all the interiors was the new Library (completed in 1909), which
was a complex space of timber posts and beams. Its construction
owed much to traditional Japanese domestic interiors, but ulti-
mately the building was an eclectic mix of styles and influences.

In Europe, the originality of Mackintosh’s style was quickly
appreciated, and in Germany, and particularly in Austria, he
received acclaim and recognition for his designs. He entered an
open competition to design “A House for an Art Lover,” put
forward in 1900 by a German design journal, Zeitschrift fur
Innendekoration. Although he failed to win the competition, his
architectural designs were judged to be of such a high standard
that they were later reproduced as a portfolio of prints.

Back in Scotland at the Hill House (1904) in Helensburgh,
the publisher Walter Blackie commissioned Mackintosh to de-
sign a substantial family home. In its appearance, it owed much
to his House for an Art Lover designs and an earlier completed
domestic commission, Windyhill (1900). Externally, the Hill
House was notable for its simple and solid massed forms with
little ornamentation, yet internally the rooms exuded light and
space, and the use of color and decoration was carefully con-
ceived.

Throughout his career, Mackintosh relied on just a handful of
patrons and supporters. The Glasgow businesswoman Catherine
Cranston proved to be one of his most influential, and her series
of tearoom interiors (designed and furnished between 1896 and
1917) provided him with a virtual freedom to experiment. Re-
sponsible for their “total design,” Mackintosh provided the tea-
rooms with furniture (including the dramatic high-back chairs),
light fittings, wall decorations, and even the cutlery.

Despite success in Europe and the support of clients such as
Blackie and Cranston, Mackintosh’s work met with considerable
indifference at home, and his career soon declined. Few private
clients were sufficiently sympathetic to want his “total design”
of house and interior. He entered the competition to design a
cathedral (1902) for the city of Liverpool, but although his de-
sign showed a Gothic quality as requested, his entry was rejected,
and his design for Scotland Street School (1904) in Glasgow
was to be his last public commission.

By 1914 Mackintosh had despaired of ever receiving the level
of recognition in Glasgow that he felt he deserved. He became
increasingly obstinate and incapable of compromise, and it is
known that this exerted unnecessary pressures on his colleagues.
In an attempt to resurrect his career, Mackintosh resigned from
the practice and with his wife, Margaret MacDonald, moved to
London.

‘This was unfortunate timing, for with the onset of World
War I, all building was severely restricted. Adventurous plans
for a suite of artists’ studios and a theater were never built.
However, after making adjustments to the exterior of a midter-
raced house (1916) at 78 Derngate in Northampton, the client,
WJ. Bassett-Lowke, commissioned Mackintosh to redecorate a
number of the building's interiors, including the Guests’ Bed-
room (1919). These designs show him working in a bold new
style of decoration and construction, using primary colors and
geometric motifs. It was an output of extraordinary vitality and
originality, but it went virtually unheeded.

PETER TROWLES


 
 
 
 
 
 
TIMELINE        
    Born in Glasgow, Scotland, 7 June 1868. Apprenticed to archi-
tect John Hutchinson 1884-94; night classes, Glasgow School
of Art 1884-88; won the prestigious Alexander Thomson Trav-
elling Studentship (1890), which allowed him to undertake an
architectural tour of Italy in 1891. Married artist Margaret Mac-
Donald 1900. Draftsman, Honeyman and Keppie, Glasgow
1888; partner 1901-1913; with wife and Frances and Herbert
MacNair, formed the artistic group The Four. Private practice
as architect, textile designer, and painter from 1914. Moved to
Walberswick, Suffolk 1914. 1914-15, lived in Chelsea, London
designing textiles and executing small projects. Moved to Port
Vendres, South of France in 1923 and took up watercolor paint-
ing, Fell ill in 1928 and returned to London. Died in London,
10 December 1928.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
FURTHER READING        
         
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
RELATED
 
 
 

 

 

 

       
 

Architects

Schools

Objects

Library

New Projects

About

Contact

Support us