Charles Rennie Mackintosh

SCOTLAND (1868–1928)

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was the most important exponent of early British design. While his own style was very individual, if not unmistakable, he joined with Herbert MacNair, Francis Macdonald and Margaret Macdonald to form “The Four,” later dubbed the “Spook School” of Glasgow. The Four exhibited together for the first time in Glasgow in 1894, in London in 1896 and in Vienna in 1900. That same year, Mackintosh married Margaret Macdonald, with whom he collaborated on many of his decorative schemes.

Mackintosh designed several public buildings and private residences in Glasgow at the turn of the century, including his masterwork, the Glasgow School of Art (1896-1909). Hill House, Miss Cranston’s tearooms and his own house in Glasgow are examples of a unique genius that did not mimic the predominant art nouveau style but created its own world of color, pattern and form. Mackintosh’s elliptical high-backed chairs adorned the Argyle Street tearooms, and his later tearooms in Ingram Street and Willow Street are integrated works of art where he designed everything, including the cutlery.

Mackintosh often designed rooms down to the last detail. His holistic approach to design included the use of symbols and stylized Celtic elements as well as the balancing of opposites – modernity with tradition, light with dark, masculine with feminine. In 1914, he left Glasgow and moved to London, where his work included designs for rhythmically patterned textiles and furniture with strong graphic lines.

Unable to secure architectural commissions in London, he moved to Port-Vendres in the South of France, where he devoted himself to painting watercolors. Although clients seemed to desert him in later life, Mackintosh was the leading designer of the Glasgow School, and his influence was considerable. The high-backed chair, with its dramatically elongated backrest, is among the most famous of his pieces, its unusual proportions never failing to arrest the eye.

Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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