Charles Rennie Mackintosh (Toshie to his friends) was born in Glasgow on the 7th June 1868. He attended Glasgow School of Art and there he was introduced to Margaret Macdonald by Fra Newberry, the pioneering director of the school, who introduced them to Symbolist Art. This was to have a major influence on the two of them, as well as on Macdonalds artist sister Francis, and the architect and designer Herbert MacNair who Francis married in 1899. They were known as The Four.
Mackintosh married Macdonald in 1900 at St Augustine’s Church in Dumbarton, which was close to the Macdonald family home, Dunglass Castle. They had their honeymoon on Holy Island, where Mackintosh made several drawings of Lindisfarne Castle.
However, before that they both went to Vienna as they had been invited, with others from the art school, to exhibit their work at the Secessionist Exhibition.
The reception they had was extraordinary, and their work was praised by amongst others, Gustav Klimt, Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos and Otto Wagner, who were the leading architects and designers of the period.
They called Mackintosh “Their master” and Gustav Klimt was so influenced by Macdonalds gesso panel, The May Queen, that he reflected the figures in her work in his Beethoven Frieze the following year.
Mackintosh and Macdonald worked together as an equal partnership, with Mackintosh dealing with the architectural side of their work, and Macdonald more involved with the interiors, especially the creation of her gesso panels.
They achieved international fame due to their submission for the House for an Art Lover Competition in 1901 being published in the form of a folio. For a while their work was very much in demand and much praised but sadly, they were considerably more admired abroad than in Scotland, and with the coming of WW1 the possibility of work abroad was impossible.
Even before then, work had started to dry up for a number of reasons, most markedly the slump in building works in Scotland. They therefore moved to Walberswick in Suffolk, where Newberry had a cottage, but on the outbreak of war they had to move to London. Here they found themselves in the very congenial atmosphere of Chelsea, where they mixed with numerous artists including a number of Scottish artists. John Duncan Ferguson, became a great friend.
When peace was declared they moved to the South of France, as living was considerably less expensive than Britain. There Mackintosh painted a whole series of watercolours, which show him to be as brilliant a painter as he was an architect.
He died in London 1928 and Margaret followed him in 1933.
Mackintosh’s masterpieces include;
– The Glasgow School of Art (now destroyed)
– Queens Cross Church, Windy Hill in Kilmacolm,
– The Hill House in Helensburgh,
– Martyrs Public School,
– The Glasgow Herald Building,
– Scotland Street School,
– 78 Derngate Northampton,
– The Willow Tea Rooms (now called Mackintosh at the Willow), and the interiors of Kate Cranston’s other three tea rooms in Ingram Street, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street (these three now demolished).