The Life of Charles Rennie Mackintosh

2018 sees the celebration of one of Britain’s most famous and influential Architects and Designers.

1 (acmestudio.com) FINALSource: acmestudio.com

Born 150 years ago this month, Charles Rennie Mackintosh remains internationally recognised as a true exponent of design. Growing up in Glasgow, Mackintosh began working as an apprentice to local Architect, John Hutchinson. Following his apprenticeship, it didn’t take long before Charles was working at the larger, and more established Honeyman and Keppie.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow School of Art

Always keen to learn, Mackintosh enrolled at the Glasgow School of Art for evening classes in a range of drawing programmes. His talents began to blossom, and he worked to further his knowledge with inspiration from the latest design and architecture journals.

In 1890 Charles was awarded the Alexander Thomson Travelling Studentship prize allowing him to embark on an architectural tour of Italy.

8 Glasgow School of Art and Design (dezeen) FINALSource: Dezeen

Following a number of progressive projects throughout the early 1890’s, it was Mackintosh’s first significant commission, in 1896 that would become his life defining work. He was tasked with designing a new building for the Glasgow School or Art. A delay in the construction process lead to the iconic design being even more unique. Mackintosh used the break to revisit his designs resulting in the second half of the building looking dramatically more 20th Century using new materials and technologies developed in this time.

10 Glasgow School of Art and Design (dezeen) FINALSource: Dezeen

11 Glasgow School of Art and Design (dezeen) FINALSource: Dezeen

The most acclaimed part of this building is the library. The interior design of this space, completed in 1909, brings together a sophisticated series of timber posts and beams. The collection of different styles and influences creates a dramatic look and one that Mackintosh is often most remembered for.

12 Glasgow School of Art and Design (dezeen) FINALSource: Dezeen

13 Glasgow School of Art and Design (dezeen) FINALSource: Dezeen

Mackintosh’s Other Work

Another of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s most celebrated works, The Hill House, can be found in Helensburgh, just west of Glasgow. Commissioned by publisher Walter Blackie, Mackintosh worked with his wife, Margaret Macdonald to create this design.  Simple and solid in external appearance, it betrays the true beauty of the playful space and light inside. The pair used a clever mix of colour and decoration to create a striking, but harmonious interior. No detail was left unchecked, every inch a deliberate commitment to the aesthetic, a process now known as the ‘Total Design’. 

7 Hill House (National Trust Scotland) FINALSource: Dezeen

The Hill HouseSource: National Trust Scotland

Much like his American counterpart Frank Lloyd Wright, Mackintosh often refused to surrender control of his projects. He insisted on having complete control of both exterior and interior, interesting given his work with his wife on The Hill House.  Despite this desire, not many people were sympathetic enough to allow him this complete control over their projects, earning him a notorious reputation.

The Hill House, Helensburgh.Source: National Trust Scotland

Moving on and Rebuilding

Having moved to London with his wife, Charles tried and struggled to resurrect his reputation. He strived for the level of recognition he had once received for previous work, but couldn’t achieve this. Unfortunately, due to war breaking out, many of Mackintosh’s projects were put on hold. Some of which have since been completed.

14 House for an Art Lover (dezeen) FINALSource: Dezeen

In 1923, Mackintosh decided it was time to leave Britain all together. He moved to the South of France, along with his wife, where he took up painting. Only four years later in 1927, Charles was forced back to London where he was diagnosed with cancer. Following a short response to treatment, Mackintosh passed away on December 10th 1928.

19 78 Derngate (ArchiTravel) FINALSource: ArchiTravel

20 78 Derngate (Britain Express) FINALSource: Britain Express

Remembering Charles Rennie Mackintosh

The 150th Anniversary of his birth is a great time to celebrate, and remember Mackintosh as a pioneer of architecture and design. A man who since his death, has been rightly regarded as a visionary of his age. His talent was not always understood or appreciated at the time, so let’s reflect and celebrate one of Britain’s greatest design talents now.

Thanks for reading!

 

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