New exhibition celebrates ‘Glasgow cultural icon’ Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Curator Alison Brown at the opening of the exhibiton. Pic: John Devlin
Curator Alison Brown at the opening of the exhibiton. Pic: John Devlin
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His work has played a crucial role in defining the identity of his home city for more than a century.

Now the life and legacy of Glasgow-born Charles Rennie Mackintosh has been honoured in the biggest ever celebration of the “Glasgow Style” he became synonymous with in the late 19th century.

The exhibition showcases the very best of Glasgow's internationally renowned civic collections. Pic: John Devlin

The exhibition showcases the very best of Glasgow's internationally renowned civic collections. Pic: John Devlin

The city’s flagship art gallery, Kelvingrove, has brought together one of the biggest ever celebrations of the architect, artist and designer, who is being hailed as “Glasgow’s greatest cultural icon”, to honour the 150th anniversary of his birth. Four years in the making, it features more than 250 objects and exhibits, some of which have not been seen in public before or are on display for the first time in decades.

The show, which also features the work of some of Mackintosh’s key contemporaries, includes stained glass, ceramics, mosaic, furniture and textiles, as well as some of his original designs.

Highlights of the show include architectural drawings for his most celebrated buildings, including at Glasgow School of Art, Scotland Street School, and Hill House in Helensburgh. It also includes original designs, fittings, furniture and even surviving sections of stencilled walls from the tea rooms designed for entrepreneur Kate Cranston.

Some of the most striking work includes posters designed by Mackintosh for the Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts and the Scottish Musical Review. The exhibition also includes the chance to see artworks and designs by Mackintosh’s wife, Margaret Macdonald, and her sister Frances.

Mackintosh's work has played a crucial role in defining the identiy of his home city. Pic: John Devlin

Mackintosh's work has played a crucial role in defining the identiy of his home city. Pic: John Devlin

Born in the Townhead area of Glasgow on 7 June, 1868, Mackintosh made his name at the architectural practice Honeyman and Keppie, combining an apprenticeship there with evening classes in drawing at Glasgow School of Art, where he was to design his most celebrated building, which was completed in 1909.

The exhibition, which runs until August, is the centrepiece of a year-long celebration of Mackintosh, includes significant loans from Glasgow School of Art and the Victoria & Albert museum in London. He will also be honoured in displays at the V&A’s new Dundee museum when it opens in September.

Kelvingrove exhibition curator Alison Brown said: “This is the biggest exhibition on Mackintosh anywhere for more than 20 years. We really wanted to get the civic collection out on display because so much of it just hasn’t been seen before. The breadth of the collection spans his entire lifetime, so the exhibition looks at his entire life and work, and also puts him in context to the city and his contemporaries.

“Glasgow was the only location in Britain that produced its own type of Art Nouveau movement, which we now call the Glasgow Style. Mackintosh was the key figure because of his output. We want people to be inspired to visit his buildings around the city.”

Duncan Dornan, head of museums and collections at Glasgow Life, which runs Kelvingrove on behalf of the city, said: “By the end of the 19th century, Glasgow had become a powerhouse of industrial might, producing the most innovative ships, locomotives and textiles in the world.

“Much of the success stemmed from the successful integration of science and art into the industrial process. Art and design formed an integral part of the city’s booming economy and Mackintosh grew from this spirit of invention and creativity.

“His talents were nurtured at Glasgow School of Art and his inspirational collaboration with other artists and craft-makers saw the emergence of the ‘Glasgow Style’ in the 1890s. Its distinctive approach to art, design and craft brought international acclaim.

“The 150th anniversary of Mackintosh’s birth offers an opportunity to re-examine his influence and impact.”