My recent trip to Glasgow included a visit to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Amongst the exhibitions is one dedicated to Glasgow Style, a celebration of the vibrant and iconic decorative arts and architecture which have become synonymous with the city’s creative past.
At the end of the 19th century, the Glasgow School of Art had established itself as one of the leading academies of its kind in Europe. The school gained a reputation as a design leader with Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whose eye for design saw him become a legend of his craft, being instrumental at the forefront of the School‘s success. Glasgow Style was born.
This mural of the man himself, and incorporating his iconic rose design, adorns a wall in the city centre, one of many fabulous murals in Glasgow.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh trained as an architect but enrolled at the Glasgow School of Art to enhance his skills set. Like many great artists, Mackintosh’s achievements were not fully appreciated until after his death.
He was commissioned to design a series of tea rooms and given full creative freedom over the decor and furnishings, even cutlery. These tearooms became synonymous with Mackintosh to the extent that when one building was demolished, it was decided to painstakingly remove and preserve the interiors beforehand.
Below are some of the original furnishings and fittings, including tableware which can be seen in the display cabinet. Another original tea room has been reassembled at the new Victoria & Albert Museum in Dundee.
The Mackintosh design style was not only to be found in public spaces. Some other exquisite examples in private ownership are included in the exhibit.
It was during his time at the Glasgow School of Art that Mackintosh met his future wife, Margaret Macdonald and her sister, Frances, who married Mackintosh’s friend, James McNair. They were known as the four, all contributing to the Glasgow Style movement.
Margaret Macdonald collaborated closely with her husband on numerous projects and was a talented artist in her own right. In fact, her husband modestly acknowledged her genius as compared with his own simple “talent”.
The Gesso panel on the wall below is entitled The Wassail and was designed by Margaret Macdonald, and was displayed in the Ladies’ Luncheon room at one of Miss Cranston’s tea rooms.
One of my favourite pieces is this stunning Tiyptych, by another female artist, Marion Henderson Wilson. Designed in 1905, these three panels of beaten tin depict a series of Glasgow motifs including intertwined lines of natural growth and the iconic roses. The subject is described as a mediaeval woman, but she looks quite of the moment – the 1905 moment, that is.
The production of glassware first started up in Glasgow in the 1600s, but the industry grew from the 1850s and was thriving by 1900, supplying the domestic market and churches. The Glasgow rose often featured, as in this splendid panel found in a tenement flat on Florida Avenue.
Here are some more intricately painted panels which once would have looked stunning in a private house.
If you like Art Nouveau, these are just some examples of a superb collection at Kelvingrove.