Arts And Crafts Trail: Glasgow and the Scottish Legacy

| 01 January 2006
Shows a photo of the school frontage, from above. It is a brick building with lots of big windows and a stone staircase leading up to the entrance.

The Glasgow School of Art owes not only its stylish facade to architect and designer RC Mackintosh, but its interior fittings as well. Courtesy Glasgow School of Art.

In Scotland, the Arts and Crafts movement has become synonymous with Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a young architect, who was influenced by the ideas of Morris and Ruskin, combining architecture, design, and practical application in his work. The Glasgow Group, 'The Four' comprised Mackintosh, Herbert MacNair, Margaret Macdonald and her sister Frances. They established their own style in the 1890s, which reflected influences from Japanese art and their Celtic heritage.

Frances Macdonald married MacNair and they lived temporarily in Liverpool, while Margaret married Mackintosh, collaborating with him on the design and execution of several house interiors including The Hill House.

Glasgow School of Art was pivotal in encouraging these new influences and the city became the centre for a strong network of Arts and Crafts workers specialising in metalwork, enamelling and embroidered textile work, influenced by teacher, Jessie Newbery and her colleagues. Later a distinctive Edinburgh style also emerged dominated by Celticism and London influences .

This trail concentrates on the legacy of Mackintosh and the many buildings he designed in Glasgow including the outstanding new building for Glasgow School of Art, using Arts and Crafts ideas outside and in all the internal fittings. Across Europe these ideas were developed and resulted in art nouveau, which swept across the continent.

Shows a photo of the glass roof of the entrance to the McLellan Galleries. The words, 'McLellan Galleries' are visible on two of the black panels on the roof.

The McLellan Galleries have been faithfully restored after a fire. Courtesy McLellan Galleries.

This tour takes in the Hill House, Hunterian Art Gallery and The Mackintosh House, McLellan Galleries, Willow Tea Rooms, Glasgow School of Art, The Lighthouse and the House for an Art Lover.

The Hill House some 20 miles from Glasgow, is run by the National Trust. It is the finest of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s domestic creations, high above the Clyde commanding fine views over the river estuary.

Walter Blackie, director of the well-known Glasgow publishers, commissioned not only the house and garden but much of the furniture and all the interior fittings and decorative schemes. Mackintosh’s wife, Margaret MacDonald, contributed fabric designs and unique gesso overmantel. The overall effect is daring, but restrained in its elegance: the result, timeless rooms, as modern today as they must have been in 1904 when the Blackie family moved in.

An information room interprets the special relationship between architect and patron. It provides a historical context for the Glasgow Style and an exhibition in the upper east wing presents the work of new designers; a stereoscopic view of the main axes of the building; a demonstration of the effects of the wonderful stained glass; a selection of the original fabrics; examples of the effects of patronage; and an examination of the relationship between Mackintosh’s work and a designed item which has become a 20th-century icon.

The gardens have been restored to their former glory, and reflect features common to Mackintosh’s architectural designs. They also contain a kinetic sculpture given to the house by the artist George Rickey.

Shows a photograph of a bedroom painted white. The bed has a fixed canopy and there is a fireplace with a black and white surround to the right of the bed.

The Mackintosh House

The Mackintosh House at the Hunterian Art Gallery is a reconstruction of the principal interiors from the Glasgow home of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) and the artist Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864-1933).

The couple lived at 78 Southpark Avenue (originally 6 Florentine Terrace) from 1906 to 1914. Substantial alterations were made in 1906 as Mackintosh remodelled the proportions and natural lighting of the Victorian end-of-terrace house. The principal interiors were decorated in his distinctive style, remarkable then, and now, for the disciplined austerity of the furnishings and decoration.

The University of Glasgow acquired the house and furniture in 1946 and the house was demolished in 1963. An extensive survey had been carried out and fitments saved to make it possible to reconstruct the principal rooms in the gallery. This was completed in 1981 and includes Mackintosh’s own furniture and a selection of bric-a-brac and other fittings based on contemporary descriptions.

Shows a photograph of an Arts and Crafts dining room. There is a dark wood dining table and chairs in the centre of the room. On the back wall is a large dark wood fireplace and an ornate electric lamp hanging from the ceiling.

The Mackintosh Room at Glasgow School of Art. Courtesy Glasgow School of Art.

The Hunterian also houses the Mackintosh collection, the largest single holding of his work, including 800 drawings, designs and watercolours together with furniture, archive of correspondence and photographs. The work of the other 'Four' is also well represented. A selection is on view in the Mackintosh House Gallery and archival material can be seen by appointment.

At the McLellan Gallery, the Glasgow 1900 gallery displays furniture, decorative objects and paintings which set Mackintosh's work in the context of Glasgow at the turn of the century, and contrast with the designs of his contemporaries including the Macdonald sisters, Talwin Morris, EA Taylor, George Walton, John Ednie, George Logan and the 'Glasgow Girls'.

In the 1980s the galleries were ravaged by fire, but re-opened in 1990, following a £3 million restoration. The interior of the building is Category B listed. While Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is closed for refurbishment, the McLellan Galleries will host the Art Treasures of Kelvingrove exhibition from April 2003, a display of the city's best-loved art works. The Galleries were originally situated behind a frontage of shops, and this is still the case today.

Shows a photograph of the interior of the tea rooms. There are high tables with silver tops on pale wooden legs. There are what looks like black ladders between the tables and smaller ones decorating the back wall.

The famous Willow Tea Rooms - surely a must-see on a visit to Glasgow. Courtesy Willow Tea Rooms.

In the same street are the Willow Tea Rooms, designed by Mackintosh for his patron Kate Cranston. During their twenty-year partnership, Mackintosh created some of his most memorable interiors for her. Between 1897 and 1917 he designed or restyled rooms in all four of her Glasgow tea room establishments.

Mackintosh's first involvement with Cranston was in the new Buchanan Street Tea Rooms at 91-93 Buchanan Street. Here his input was limited to some wall murals, with the interiors and furnishings being designed by George Walton. It was in Ingram Street in 1900 that Cranston first allowed Mackintosh to redesign an entire room, which resulted in the White Dining Room.

In 1903, Mackintosh moved onto the Willow Tea Rooms at 217 Sauchiehall Street. For the first time he was given the opportunity not only to design all the interior fittings, but also the exterior and internal layout of the building itself. The Willow Tea Rooms opened its doors in November of that year and at its height extended over five levels. From the outset, the Room de Luxe was the main attraction. With its unprecedented silver furniture and leaded mirror friezes it offered a unique experience.

Shows a photograph of two men and two women sat at a table having tea and scones. In the background are two waitresses dressed in black and white.

What nice surroundings for a cup of tea. Courtesy the Willow Tea Rooms.

In July 1997, the Willow expanded beyond the original Sauchiehall Street site, with the opening of the Willow Tea Rooms at 97 Buchanan Street. This property is immediately next door to Kate Cranston's original Buchanan Street Tea Rooms and contains recreations of the White Dining Room and Chinese Room both from the Ingram Street site. The same care has been put into the sympathetic recreation of these important interiors to offer visitors the opportunity to relax in the surroundings of Mackintosh and enjoy the experience of a bygone era.

The Glasgow School of Art was originally founded in January 1845 as Glasgow's Government School of Design. In 1896 an architectural competition took place for the building of a new Glasgow School of Art. The Glasgow firm of Honeyman and Keppie submitted a design by one of their junior draughtsmen, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Shows a photograph of an impressive building at night. There are two towers, with floor to ceiling windows, on either side of the building. It is nighttime and behind the many windows there are lights on inside.

Scotland Street School Museum, Glasgow © Glasgow City Council

Due to the cost the building was completed in two stages, first the central and eastern half of the building, opened in 1899, which included the Museum, the Headmaster's Room and Board Room. It took another eight years before the second phase could be started and this was finished in 1909.

In total contrast to the earlier austere facades the west wing with its dramatic design and dominating windows heralded the birth of a new style in 20th century European architecture. Internally the most dramatic of interiors was reserved for the library with its decorated balcony and central cluster of electric lights. A century on, Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art remains a functional working building as he always intended it to be.

Scotland Street School Museum was Mackintosh's last major commission in Glasgow showing evidence of the genius of the mature architect - impressive leaded glass towers, magnificent tiled entrance hall, unique stonework and mastery of the interplay of light and space. There are period classrooms, exhibitions, and activity programmes throughout the year as well as new displays on the history of the school and the local area, including interactive displays and a photographic database.

Shows a photograph of a brick tower looking up. There is a glass ceiling around the outside of the tower about half-way up.

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse is the former Glasgow Herald Building, now home to Scotland's award winning Centre for Architecture, Design and the City. The Mackintosh Interpretation Centre contains original objects, interactive touch screens and architectural models. The Mackintosh tower with its spiral staircase provides magnificent rooftop views of Glasgow, while the Lighthouse offers a variety of events, talks, workshops and tours for all ages throughout the year.

Shows a photograph of a big white building. In front of it is a low hedge and a lawn.

House for an Art Lover, recently built, in the style of Mackintosh.

The House for an Art Lover is the last stop on the Glasgow tour. The House, completed in 1996, was inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh's portfolio of drawings of 1901, which was submitted as a competition entry to a German design magazine. A permanent exhibition of decorative furnished rooms, realised by contemporary artists and crafts people, allow visitors the opportunity to compare the original drawings against each completed room.

A Rebellion of Substance and Style / The Victoria and Albert Museum, Greater London and the South East / Cheltenham, the Cotswolds, Midlands and Lake District


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