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Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style comes to Walker Art Gallery

March 12, 2019

The work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and fellow architects and designers of the ‘Glasgow Style’ is being showcased at the Walker Art Gallery.

More than 250 pieces of furnitue, jewellery, metal work, paintings, sketches, embroidery, light fittings, ceramics and stained glass, are on show in the stunning new exhibition which opens this Friday.

The exhibition, previously shown at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow, includes a number of pieces never seen on display before and explores the movement that became known as The Glasgow Style – the only Art Nouveau movement in the UK.

The Glasgow Style grew out of the technical studios of the Glasgow School of Art and a group of brilliant young designers, including Mackintosh and James Herbert MacNair, who worked together at an architects’ practice, and sisters Frances and Margaret Macdonald.

Mackintosh and Margaret, and MacNair and Frances, met in classes at the Glasgow School of Art and the couples later married - together they were described as ‘the Four’ or ‘the Immortals’.

The exhibition is a treasure trove of their work, along with other key pieces by artists like Jessie Newbery, William Gibson Morton, Marion Henderson Wilson and Talwin Morris.

 

Here curator Alyson Pollard picks five key pieces you shouldn't miss:

 

The May Queen

This imposing triptych – on loan from the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum - was created for the ladies’ luncheon room at Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street tearooms in Glasgow in 1900, and designed by Margaret Macdonald.

It is made from oil-painted gesso, hessian, twine, glass beads, mother of pearl, scrim and tin leaf.

The panels were exhibited in Vienna before being installed in the tearooms. Charles Rennie Mackintosh also created an artwork – The Wassail - for the venue, but that hasn’t survived.

 

Rennie Mackintosh’s competition design for Liverpool Cathedral

Imagine if the Liverpool Cathedral we see today hadn’t been designed by Giles Gilbert Scott but by Charles Rennie Mackintosh?

That’s the tantalising prospect in four architectural drawings which have returned to the Walker for the first time in almost 120 years.

Mackintosh was working at Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh architects when he entered the UK-wide contest to design a new cathedral. The designs were one of 103 to be showcased at the Walker in 1902 but didn’t make it through to the next round.

Incidentally, Mackintosh’s in-laws James Herbert MacNair and Frances Macdonald were living in the city at the time as MacNair was a teacher at the University of Liverpool’s Art Sheds. Their only child Sylvan was born in Liverpool in 1900.

 

The Sleeping Beauty

Bolton-born Ann Macbeth was a key member of the Glasgow style and a renowned embroiderer and designer.

Needlework had been the first technical subject at the Glasgow School of Art in 1892, and its leader Jessie Newbery had a profound effect on the development of the Glasgow style. Macbeth took charge of needlework instruction in 1908.

This silk applique panel was created in 1899-1900 when she was still a student.

 

The Swallow’s Flight

The metalwork of this tactile long-case clock was designed by silversmith Peter Wylie Davidson and the case may have come from Mackintosh.

Davidson was a contemporary of Macintosh’s at the Glasgow School of Art and technical instructor in metalwork from 1897.

The clock’s face has an almost Art Deco speed feel with the circling repoussé swallows, and there are also a pair in flight on the pendulum.

 

Chinese Room

The impressive Chinese Room, also known as the Blue Room, was designed by Mackintosh for Glasgow tea room pioneer Kate Cranston who brought a sense of occasion and the theatrical to her establishment at Ingram Street.

In 1911 she asked Mackintosh to redesign the gentlemen’s team room and this was what he created.

The fittings include a futuristic light and an early use of coloured plastic-like material in the panelling.

 

Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Making the Glasgow Style is at the Walker Art Gallery from March 15 to August 26. Tickets are £9 with concessions HERE

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