Scottish architect born in Glasgow in 1868. Did the majority of his work between 1896 and 1910, including designing the Glasgow School of Art, the Willow Tea Rooms, and private homes (Windyhill in Kilmacolm and The Hill House in Helensburgh). His work has been compared to, and is considered a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright and Eliel Saarinen.

Unfortunately, much of Mackintosh's work went unnoticed in Scotland, and he died in obscurity.

Mackintosh was part of the Arts and Crafts movement and occasionally accused of being a part of the decadent Arts Nouveau school, which was looked upon with distrust by England. He helped found the Glasgow School of Art, which is now the Mackintosh Building. He was celebrated in Vienna, but, as above, largely ignored in his homeland--especially because of his difficult-to-grasp concept of total design in architecture. He died in the south of France in 1928 of cancer, having given up architecture and turned to landscape painting in his last years.

He and his friend Herbert MacNair also worked with the artist sisters, Margaret and Frances Macdonald. Together they embraced the "crafts" portion of the movement by working on not just illustration but also furniture and metalwork. They were derisively called "the Spook School."

Among his most recognizable and still-reproduced motifs is an abstracted, squared-off rose. One of the most common Art Nouveau fonts is a copy of Mackintosh's lettering, with rounded corners, high crosspieces and extra elements such as dots and double lines.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Or: Not Just a Pretty Font

Charles Rennie Mackintosh, in addition to being always referred to by his full name, was a notable Glaswegian architect and designer, and a slighly less notable Glaswegian painter. He rose to obscurity in the early part of the 20th Century, his work being generally unappreciated until years after his death.

While alive, he rebelled against the predominant movement of superficial stylism, using rectilinear structures and subtle curves. Probably why he wasn't much liked in generally conservative England.

But I'm getting a bit ahead of the story.

First Things First

Not much to report of his early childhood--let's just say he was thinking.

On the Make

CRM got started on his career quite early, fleeing his overcrowded home to go to an arts school. So much for practicality.

The 'Spook' School

The Four's collaborative efforts in metalwork, illustration, and furniture design is influenced by the style of Aubrey Beardsley. Often bizarre abstract imagery and metamorphic lines are incorporated into their work.

In England, at the time, these Scottish imports were scaring the normals. Art nouveau, though gaining in popularity on the Continent, was still a non-non across the Channel, and CRM's influential contributions to it were viewed through suspicious eyes.

Though that didn't stop him building buildings.

Building Buildings

The bulk of CRM's architectural achievements came in a relatively brief though undoubtedly intense burst of creative output; he worked hard through the turn of the century, getting his first major gig at the age of 28.

Despite all of these domestic successes, he still wasn't too well thought of in the UK. Continentally, they loved him--his room at the Turin Intemational Exhibition in 1902 opened to enthusiastic support, and he was invited to exhibit in Moscow, Berlin, and Vienna.

Perhaps he should have moved there. But instead, he sat about for ten years wondering why these backwards yahoos wouldn't get with the times.

Slowing Down

Architecture didn't reward Mackintosh, if he rewarded it, and the end of his career sees more done by him in watercolor than blueprint.

  • 1914: He moves to Suffolk with his wife, to paint--her original medium.
  • 1916: 78 Derngate in Northampton is more or less his last architectural effort--summing up everything he knew and loved about the art. There were a few smaller commissions as well in the city, but CRM by this time had pretty much lost interest--and faith--in contemporary sensibilities.
  • 1923: The pair take up residence in Port Vendres, France, and essentially stay out of everyone's way. He produces his best paintings at this time, though he'll never be known for them.
  • 1927: On to London, likely the last place this man should want to go. And appropriately, the last place he did go. He died the following year of cancer.

What We Make of Him Now

He was the most memorable Scottish architect of his age, beyond doubt, and in recent years the nation has come to embrace him as a Fountainhead of architectural art nouveau and European Modernism. His unwillingness to compromise in the 'total design' of a house has since earned him acclaim where it once made him undesirable, and now you can hardly walk into a gift shop in Britain without encountering one of his trademark designs, fashioned into some trinket or other: the Mackintosh font, and the Mackintosh rose.

Another visionary dies penniless while the world plays catch-up.

Curvilinear motifs to:

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