Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a world renowned architect, artist and designer and is now seen as synonymous with the Art Nouveau movement. To this day, he is recognised and celebrated across the world as one of the most significant talents of the late 19th and early 20th century. This national and global icon spent many of his holidays as a young adult in Carrick, staying in the picturesque village of Dunure with the group famously known as ‘The Immortals.’
Charles Rennie Mackintosh Bio
Charles Rennie Mackintosh was born at 70 Parson Street, in the Townhead area of Glasgow, on 7 June 1868, and was the second son of William and Margaret Mackintosh’s 12 children. He attended Reid's Public School and the Allan Glen's Institution. In 1890 Mackintosh was the second winner of the Alexander Thomson Travelling Studentship, set up for the "furtherance of the study of ancient classic architecture, with special reference to the principles illustrated in Mr. Thomson’s works”.
He began his working life in the city of his birth, as an apprentice architect with John Hutchinson. In 1889 he moved to work with Honeyman and Keppie while also attending evening classes at The Glasgow School of Art. While giving him a good foundation, all this formal training offered Mackintosh little opportunity to nurture his artistic creativity.
It was during his time at The Glasgow School of Art, between 1883 and 1894, Mackintosh joined a group of talented students, who called themselves The Immortals. Among the group was Margaret Macdonald, her sister Frances Macdonald, and Herbert MacNair who was also a fellow apprentice with Mackintosh at Honeyman and Keppie. Margaret was to become his future wife. These close companions would later be known as the collaborative group “The Four”, prominent members of the "Glasgow School" movement.
This group of artists went on to exhibit in Glasgow, London and Vienna, and these exhibitions helped establish Mackintosh's reputation. The so-called ‘Glasgow Style’ was exhibited in Europe and influenced the Viennese Art Nouveau movement known as Sezessionstil (in English, the Vienna Secession) around 1900.
Mackintosh travelled around Britain and Italy, sketching historic architectural sites. It is believed that these field trip exercises nurtured the development of his latent expressive and artistic talents. His drawing became less rigidly technical and this became evident in his studies of flowers and plants. While still strongly concerned with their structure and form, his treatment was also sensitive and delicate, showing what was later to become a lifelong fascination with the relationship between natural and man-made forms. Mackintosh was to become much influenced by Japanese art and the stylised techniques used in drawing and painting plants and flowers.
Mackintosh went on to win many awards and his drawings began to appear in professional press publications.
The most architecturally outstanding and famous building by Charles Rennie Mackintosh is his design for The Glasgow School of Art, erected between 1897 and 1909. It was seen as both radically modern and uncompromisingly aesthetic. It was practical, functional and artistic and the dynamic simplicity of its design became a model for many future architectural designs.
Mackintosh's talent for interior design can be seen in the famous Willow Tea Rooms on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow. Here, it was not just the building that concerned Mackintosh; it was also the importance of the space within the building and what filled it that became as important as the initial idea itself. The Tea Rooms showed how Mackintosh designed a project as 'a whole'. He considered the furniture, the textiles, the fittings, the ornamentation, décor colour and texture to be of equal importance to the structure.
By using the architectural rigidity and severity of squares and oblongs interwoven with the gentle subtlety of the curves and tracery of Nature, Mackintosh came to represent and typify the style of the Art Nouveau movement. His work is easily recognisable, with his frequent use of motifs such as the stylised rose, seen in so many of his projects - a trademark of simplification, abstraction and symbolism. He used media such as glass, metal, wood, ceramics and textiles in his designs for such diverse items as furniture, doors, windows and cutlery.
For more information on Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his extensive iconic works visit the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society website: www.crmsociety.com
Top: Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Courtesy of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society
Bottom: The Immortals
Left to Right: Katherine Cameron, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Janet Aitken, John Keppie, Agnes Raeburn, Jessie Keppie, Frances Macdonald, Herbert McNair, Margaret Macdonald