Héré-de-Mallet, Ille-sure-Têt, watercolour and pencil on paper, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh 1868-1928. Private collection, on loan to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
A different side of the world-famous Scottish architect CR Mackintosh (1868 – 1928) is now on show at the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh in France: Landscape Watercolours neither features his furniture nor interiors, but instead focuses on the last five years of his life, which he spent painting in southern France.
Bringing together almost all of the watercolours he made there – landscapes, rural and village scenes, hill towns, ports and depictions of local flora – the exhibition runs until February 5 2006. It also features the letters he wrote to his wife Margaret, giving a rare insight into the mind of one of Scotland’s most celebrated artists and architects.
“We are very pleased that, through the generosity of lenders and in particular the Hunterian Art Gallery, we have been able to bring together virtually all the paintings Mackintosh made in France towards the end of his life,” said Richard Calvocoressi, Director of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
“These are ravishing pictures,” he went on, “and this is the first time that so many of them have been shown. I am confident the exhibition will be a great success.”
The Little Bay, Port Vendres, pencil and watercolour, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh 1868-1928. © Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow.
Often regarded as his twilight years, the time Mackintosh spent in the south of France can now be considered a late flowering. Mackintosh and his wife decided to up sticks after an unsuccessful period in London, taking a few belongings and heading for the then relatively unfashionable Pyrenees and Roussillon coast area of France.
The couple opted to stay in small, secluded locations – a far cry from their lives in the cities of Glasgow and London. Mackintosh put architecture behind him and devoted himself to painting the sleepy fishing ports of Collioure and Port Vendres, nearby valley towns and mountain villages – many of which remain unchanged today.
The paintings reveal the many influences Mackintosh had absorbed during his time in London, where he mixed with renowned art world figures such as Jacob Epstein and Wyndham Lewis. Most of those on show are on loan from the Hunterian Art Gallery in Glasgow, and from collections around the world.
Fort Maillert, 1927 by Charles Rennie Mackintosh 1868-1928. © Glasgow School of Art.
“The Hunterian has been delighted to work with the National Galleries of Scotland in the development of this exciting exhibition,” said Mungo Campbell, Deputy Director of the Hunterian.
“We are thrilled that new audiences will be able to discover the Hunterian’s matchless Mackintosh holdings,” he continued, “and enjoy the fruits of the University of Glasgow’s longstanding commitment to research and interpretation of his life and work. This partnership is a welcome opportunity for two of Scotland’s greatest collections to share their resources for the benefit of all.”
Most of the information known about Mackintosh’s time in France is from the letters he wrote to his wife while she was undergoing medical treatment back in London. He wrote daily to her, as he spoke only a little French – rather lucky for researchers as it was one of the few times in his life he did write anything down. This makes the letters a rare and valued record of what and where he painted (few of the paintings are dated), as well as chronicling his relationship with Margaret.
The letters also document the first indication of the terminal cancer which forced them both back to London in 1927 and led to Mackintosh’s death in December 1928.