Rennie Mackintosh’s hidden works on show at last

NEW insights into the work of Scotland’s most famous architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, are to be revealed at an exhibition being staged at the country’s oldest museum.

Mackintoshs drawing of Martyrs Public School, Glasgow, in 1896
Mackintoshs drawing of Martyrs Public School, Glasgow, in 1896
Mackintoshs drawing of Martyrs Public School, Glasgow, in 1896

The opening later this week at the Hunterian Art Gallery in Glasgow coincides with the culmination of a four-year research project which charts the evolution of his iconic style and identifies previously unrecorded works.

The largest study of Mackintosh’s architectural works yet undertaken was led by experts at the University of Glasgow.

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The findings from the project will be made public on a website, which launches this Friday to accompany the exhibition.

Professor Pamela Robertson, professor of Mackintosh studies at the university and principal investigator of the project, said the findings would not only be of great public interest, but will play a vital role in conservation and restoration of Mackintosh’s buildings.

She said: “The resource we have created will provide both academics and amateurs with a much broader understanding of his achievements as pragmatic professional as well as exceptional artist-designer.”

The team conducted an exhaustive investigation of archival material from around the world and visited all of the accessible buildings that Mackintosh worked on.

Prof Robertson added: “The project has allowed us to understand more about the context within which Mackintosh worked, and his wide network of clients, contractors and suppliers, which challenges the familiar description of Mackintosh as an isolated genius.”

She said that by looking at the 126 architectural works into which Mackintosh had design input, the landmark project challenges the familiar view of Mackintosh as the isolated genius. She added that not only has it defined Mackintosh’s role in the buildings produced by the firm Honeyman & Keppie – a major architect firm based in Glasgow whose most famous employee was Mackintosh, who started as a draughtsman in April 1889 – it closely charted the evolution of his style, found unrecorded works, and confirmed previously uncertain attributions.

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The Mackintosh Architecture exhibition features more than 80 architectural drawings from the Hunterian and collections across the UK.

Many have never been exhibited before and are on display alongside specially commissioned film, models and rarely seen archival material.

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Highlights from the project website include a catalogue of 126 architectural projects involving Mackintosh, a catalogue of more than 1200 architectural drawings and an interactive map detailing locations of all the buildings that Mackintosh helped create. The project, which has more than 3,000 images, was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council with additional support from the Pilgrim Trust and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission for the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland provided collaborative input.

The Mackintosh Architecture exhibition at the Hunterian will run from 18 July to 4 January, 2015.

The new exhibition opens weeks after a fire ripped through parts of one of Mackintosh’s most iconic buildings, Glasgow School of Art.

The blaze, which destroyed about 10 per cent of the building, including the Mackintosh library, broke out on 23 May.

Hollywood star Brad Pitt and Doctor Who actor Peter Capaldi are leading efforts to raise £20 million to restore the building.Pitt is a fan of Mackintosh and Capaldi is a former art school student. The school estimates the cost of restoring the building at up to £35m.

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Last week, it was announced that chairs designed by Mackintosh and made for Miss Cranston’s Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow are to be sold at auction, valued at more than £10,000.

The pair of ebonised oak chairs, which date from 1903, are going under the hammer in Edinburgh next month.