Art Nouveau for Tea in Glasgow
A reflection on the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a one of Scotland’s most innovative architects.
Glasgow's McLellan Galleries play host this month to a major retrospective of one of Scotland's most innovative sons, the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The eccentric designer left an indelible stamp on his native Glasgow: his creation, the Glasgow School of Arts, founded in 1896, still stands monumentally in this city of not-so-sober Scots.
Showing that imagination is not lacking in a hard- minded business town, Glaswegians this summer are celebrating the work of Mackintosh, who was born and educated there to become the city's principal architect from the turn-of- the-century. (Though in calling him 'Scotland's most famous and imaginative architect and designer' the official brochure is surely in excess. What about the great Robert Adam? Mackintosh himself probably would not have approved).
The designer is recognisably of his period, and the fact that he is still a very lively local influence is evidence enough of his greatness. This show should help to make his work better known beyond Scotland.
Mackintosh works of art can be startlingly original. He brought a demanding ' and ever-innovative eye to his creations – who can forget the extraordinary attenuated dining chairs or shapely silverware – and to show he was not averse to Belle Epoque curlicues, surprising decorative touches of wood, ironwork and glass? Although influenced by the new images and ornament of the fiz de siècle period, the work of Mackintosh is still distinctly his own.
The 1890s produced some extraordinary works in all fields of the arts, not least in architecture. The free flowing, fantastical design of 'noodle art' comes to mind, but not all buildings and artefacts followed the French- inspired riotous ribboning of Art Nouveau. The Glasgow School of Arts is evidence of Mackintosh's original approach to architecture.