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Charles Rennie Mackintosh is celebrated for his design work which encompassed architecture, interior design, furniture and metalwork including the Glasgow School of Art.

'Life' is the leaves which shape and nourish a plant, but 'art' is the flower which embodies its meaning.
- Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Who was Charles Rennie Mackintosh?

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was born in Glasgow (7 June 1868 – 10 December 1928), he trained as an architect and attended evening classes in art and design at the Glasgow School of Art. 

Mackintosh was studying at the Glasgow School of Art when he met fellow student Margaret Macdonald, and they were married on 22 August 1900.

Mackintosh is regarded today as Scotland's most famous designer and architect, and is particularly celebrated for his innovative design of the Mackintosh Building for the Glasgow School of Art in the late 1890s, the building was completed in 1909.  

Charles Rennie Mackintosh portrait © GL Archive/Alamy

Creative collaboration

As husband and wife, Charles and Margaret collaborated on many projects, and along with Margaret's sister Frances and her husband James Herbert McNair, were at the forefront of the Glasgow School style of art, design and architecture. 

Their work was highly influential upon a number of  important European and American designers, such as the Austrian Wiener Werkstätte. 

Design for public buildings

In 1898, Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed the furniture and interiors for Kate Cranston’s Argyll street tearooms, Glasgow, collaborating with George Walton, who designed the wall murals. Mackintosh’s designs for the tearooms included, for the first time, his trademark high-backed chair.

Tub armchair, Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, for the Argyll Street tea rooms, Glasgow, Scotland, 1897, Oak.
National Museums Scotland collection reference: H.SVB 8, see this in our Design For Living gallery. 

Chair, Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, for the Argyll Street tea rooms, Glasgow, Scotland, 1897, Oak, rush seat, horsehair cover. 
National Museums Scotland collection reference: K.1999.444, see this in our Design For Living gallery. 

The Willow tearooms

The name Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow derives from the Scots Gaelic word seileach, meaning willow, and when in 1903 Kate Cranston opened a tearoom on that street, the Willow Tearooms was a perfect name.

The stylised forms of willows can be seen here in the plasterwork panels which once decorated the walls of the Willow tearooms. 

Two sculpted plasterwork panels, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, with abstracted willow tree design playing on the Scottish vernacular word ‘sauch’ meaning ‘willow’. 
National Museums Scotland collection reference:  K.1997.404, see this in our Design For Living gallery. 

Together, Charles Rennie and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh designed the interiors of all four of Cranston’s establishments in Glasgow. 

Chair, Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for the Room de Luxe, Willow Tearooms, Glasgow, 1903, Silver painted wood, velvet upholstery.
National Museums Scotland collection reference:  H.SVB 7, see this in our Design For Living gallery. 

Tea table, Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, probably made by John Craig, for the Ingram Street Tearooms in Glasgow, 1909, Oak. 
National Museums Scotland collection reference:  K.1999.443, see this in our Design For Living gallery.

House for an Art Lover

House for an Art Lover competition entry drawings: Perspective from south-east and south elevation, c1901 © The Hunterian, University of Glasgow

House for an Art Lover

In 1901, Charles Rennie Mackintosh submitted an entry to a competition for a House for an Art Lover (Haus eines Kunstfreundes) held by the German publication Zeitschrift Fur Innendekoration. The competition brief demanded that the house was to be of a 'thoroughly modern style'. Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh collaborated with Rennie Mackintosh on the competition entry drawings. 

House for an Art Lover competition entry drawings: Perspective from south-east and south elevation, c1901 © The Hunterian, University of Glasgow

Competition entry portfolio

Mackintosh’s entry was submitted under a pseudonym ‘Der Vögel’ (`The bird`) and was disqualified due to being incomplete.  However, the judges praised its ‘pronounced personal quality, novel and austere form and the uniform configuration of interior and exterior’ and awarded a special prize for the originality of the design.

The designs were published in 1902 and, in the same year the portfolio was exhibited at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art in Turin.

House for an Art Lover competition entry drawings © The Hunterian, University of Glasgow

Realising the design

Mackintosh and Macdonald's House for an art lover was originally conceived as a private residence. The project was never realised during their lifetime, but a house based on the designs was built in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow between 1989 and 1996, and is now open to the public.

House for an Art Lover competition entry drawings © The Hunterian, University of Glasgow

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