In 2016 Charles Rennie Mackintosh was voted #2 Great Scot* in a poll conducted by the National Trust for Scotland. But how how much do we really know about this clearly much loved and iconic Scottish designer?
On the eve of his 150th birthday on June 7th, I set out to find out more about his life, work and legacy and created my infographic 'Charles Rennie Mackintosh: An Illustrated Story'.
As a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art- a building designed by Mackintosh in 1896 and affectionately known as 'The Mack’ to students old and new - this is my artist’s perspective on this Great Scot.
Architect, designer, artist: where to start when telling the Mackintosh story?
A man ahead of his time...
Through his short career as an architect (spanning less than 20 years) Mackintosh enjoyed some notable successes but, more tellingly, he endured heavy criticism and ridicule from establishment figures of the day. It was as a consequence of this criticism that he turned his back on his vocation and left Glasgow to live out the rest of his life as an unrecognised painter in the South of France.
Despite this, Mackintosh’s legacy and appeal (as an artist, designer and architect) have grown massively since his death in 1928:
Designed when he was 28 years old but only completed many years later due to funding difficulties. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) recognised The Mack as the finest building designed by a British architect in the last 175 years. After the building's west wing was gutted by fire in 2014, the GSA Development Fund was established to raise funds for its restoration with notable trustees including Peter Capaldi (actor and GSA alumnus) and Brad Pitt who is a major Mack fan.
His unique and distinctive high backed chairs were designed for every day use in tea rooms and boardrooms and have since become collectors pieces. A pair of his ladderback chairs sold recently in auction for £109,250 and have appeared in many movies and even in Madonna's Express Yourself video.
Lettering and Type Fonts
Mackintosh extended his unique aesthetic design right down to the detail of the hand-drawn lettering that he used in the naming of his buildings. His lettering designs were later recreated in the type fonts Willow and Nouveau which can be seen from house plaques to TV show titles - including American Horror Story starring Jessica Lang. My 'Art is the Flower, Life is the green Leaf' clock celebrates both his elegant lettering style and one of his most famous quotes.
Mackintosh submitted his plans for this house in an architectural design competition in 1901. His entry was late, and although highly commended could not be considered for the judging. The plans were later dusted off and this beautiful house was built 100 years later in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow; faithful to Mackintosh’s original plans for both the exterior and the beautifully ornate interiors, fixtures and fittings.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, A Man Ahead of Your Time: thank you for being a beacon of creative inspiration to us all and a truly Great Scot. Happy birthday.
*And just in case you were wondering, Robert Burns was voted #1 Great Scot: you may also enjoy my Illustrated Story of his life too.
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