August 22: the Glasgow Two

2012/08/22 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1900 Charles Rennie Mackintosh married Margaret MacDonald.

Both architect Mackintosh (1868-1928) and artist MacDonald (1865–1933) were part of the Glasgow “School” (in the sense of being a loose association of like-minded artists) that represented the Scottish arm of art nouveau by fusing deep Scottish/Celtic history, the British Arts and Crafts and a new interest in old Japanese art.  Their paintings and decorative arts feature stylized roses, other flowers and plants, and evocative images of lithe women that vaguely recall the Middle Ages as well as timeless spooky sprites.  These images are usually set within or among strong geometric frameworks of stretched lines, lattices, circles and squares and adorn walls, pillows, carpets, furniture, perfume bottles, windows . . . anything.

Mackintosh and MacDonald met at the Glasgow School of Art (in the sense of being a real brick-and-mortar institution).  Her focus was textiles and metals; he designed buildings and the occasional chair.  They both exhibited at the Viennese Secession in 1900 (best honeymoon ever?); Austrians Klimt and Hoffmann named her work influential.  The Glaswegians found it natural to conjoin married life along with their work, a general impulse among later devotees of William Morris.  So closely did they collaborate it is difficult to determine just what part of finished projects, notably a number of Glasgow Tea Rooms and the “House for An Art Lover” should be attributed to one or the other.  It’s most certainly true that MacDonald infused the elegance, warmth and visual interest into Mackintosh’s rather flinty, brittle buildings and flimsy furniture.  He once remarked that she had “genius” while he possessed mere “talent” and, in addition to providing a framework and canvas for her, was probably the best thing he ever did or said.

Image: Music Room, House for an Art Lover


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