GSA’s rare Mackintosh furniture goes on display

RARE and valuable Mackintosh furniture that survived the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) fire is to go back on display nine months on.
The items were previously on show in the Mackintosh Room. Picture: PAThe items were previously on show in the Mackintosh Room. Picture: PA
The items were previously on show in the Mackintosh Room. Picture: PA

A new furniture gallery has been created to showcase the 20 prized pieces which firefighters saved from the Mackintosh building last May.

They include one of the artist’s famous ladder-backed chairs, a bookcase and two rarely-seen embroidered panels by Margaret Macdonald, the wife of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868 -1928).

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The items, previously on show in the Mackintosh Room, will be moved out of storage and into a gallery in the school’s new Reid Building where they will be viewed as part of the GSA’s Mackintosh tours starting Sunday February 1.

Tour co-ordinator Juliet Fellows-Smith said: “The Mackintosh Room and furniture gallery were always highlights of the GSA Mackintosh building tours.

“Although it has not been possible to visit the building since last May, we have still been able to offer special tours and are delighted that from this weekend we will also include a visit to this new furniture gallery.”

The works on show will include examples of the unusual time-keeping system installed in the Mackintosh building in 1910.

Several “slave” clocks were electrically run from a central “master” clock which relied upon the latest technology of the day, a pulse-operated mechanism manufactured by the Glasgow firm Dykes Brothers.

The majority of the clocks survived the blaze and the GSA has brought in a horologist to re-connect the master with one of the slaves so that visitors can see how the system worked.

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GSA curator Peter Trowles said: “It is widely recognised that Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s design for the Glasgow School of Art was unique and innovative, not only the physical building but the fixtures, fittings and furniture as well.

“In 1910 Mackintosh provided designs for a series of simple, wooden, wall-mounted clocks to be used in the studios and in the more public areas of the building. This was to be one of his last-ever designs for the school.

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“What’s special about the system is that before its installation all the clocks had to be wound up and adjusted every week.

“As every clock would have to be wound by hand, some by key, they could have been as much as ten minutes out.

“With this state-of-the-art system, all the clocks moved together meaning that they were all accurate.”

Visitors to the gallery will see a Mackintosh-designed mirror, smokers’ cabinet and a ladder-backed chair created for the famous Willow Tea Rooms.

Also on show will be two rarely-exhibited embroidered panels by Margaret Macdonald. The last time they were on public display was when they were loaned out for the Klimt exhibition in Japan in 2012.

Ms Fellows-Smith said: “Margaret Macdonald’s Heart of the Rose gesso panel was a very popular piece in the original furniture gallery.

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“Macdonald was an important Glasgow Style designer in her own right as well as working in partnership with Mackintosh.”

Student guides will lead the daily tours priced £9.75 from February 1.