Design I: Art 103
Professor Andrea Reeves, Spring 2011
First Prize Winner:
Susan Mitchell Award for Excellence in an Honors Contract Project
Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, New York
“Charles Rennie Mackintosh was arguably the greatest architect and designer Scotland produced.”1
Born in Glasgow on June 7, 1868, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was the fourth of eleven (11) children of a police superintendent, who, fortunately for Charles, also had a great love of gardening. Not much is known about his early life. It seems he was a lonesome child who did not excel academically. Nonetheless, the young Mackintosh showed remarkable skill in drawing. He especially loved to wander in his father’s garden and draw from nature.
Photos of Mackintosh in his mid-twenties show him at the center of groups of fellow art students. He appears to be a bit gregarious, popular, handsome and quite confident. Many sources report that Mackintosh was known to be moody and oversensitive to criticism, characteristics which might be said to be common in persons of extraordinary abilities. “He could be stubborn to the point of arrogance, proud and remote; in boyhood he had been prone to quite violent outbursts of rage which went beyond the usual childhood tantrums.”2
His was a complex personality.
He displayed fierce loyalties to several individuals in his lifetime, each of whom provided him with opportunities that, in combination, may be said to define the course and body of his work. Francis Newberry was the Director of the Glasgow School of Art where Mackintosh studied art and architecture (in a 2-phase project of 1899 and 1909 Mackintosh designed the new building and all of the interiors of the school -- which is still a working educational institution located at 167 Renfrew Street -- often considered his masterpiece); Margaret Macdonald, his wife and artistic collaborator; and Kate Cochrane (née Cranston), proprietor of a number of Glasgow Tea Rooms which Mackintosh either assisted in designing or was the designer in charge of the entire project.
Miss Cranston (as she was known even after she married John Cochrane in 1904), decided to refurbish one of her early Tea Rooms in time for Glasgow’s First International Exhibition in 1888. For this work, at Argyle Street, she commissioned the 21 year old designer, George Walton. Here Walton pioneered the “carefully united interior in which one designer perfected all the details.”3 In later of her commissions, Mackintosh worked with Walton. Eventually, after Walton relocated to London, Miss Cranston put Mackintosh in charge of of every small detail of the Willow Tea Rooms, which opened on Sauchiehall Street on October 29, 1903, on what was becoming Glasgow’s up and coming shopping street.4 Walton’s concept of the unified interior was a “notion that became fundamentally important to Mackintosh”5 and is demonstrated in every one of his major architectural and interior designs, but nowhere with such attention to detail as in the Willow Tea Rooms.
With the success of the 1888 Exhibition a sense of well-being overtook the city and the years that followed were prosperous on many fronts, the arts among them. One of the influential personalities on the Glasgow arts scene of this period was Francis Newberry, who had assumed the directorship of the School of Art in 1885, a year after Mackintosh enrolled in night classes there, while apprenticed in architecture to John Hutchison. At school Mackintosh made the acquaintance of Herbert MacNair who was to become his good friend. Together with the Macdonald sisters, Frances and Margaret, they became known as “The Four.” Invited to exhibit at the 1896 Arts and Crafts Society Exhibition in London, their collaborative work was not well received, and they were labeled “The Spook School.”6 Up until this point Mackintosh had been greatly influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement and this unfortunate experience cut him off from moving further in their direction.
In addition to the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau, which was the internationally popular style of the time, there were two other traditions that Mackintosh looked to for inspiration: Scotland and Japan. By the 1870’s Scotland was turning away from the Victorian ideals of Gothic and Classical revivals to more homegrown styles, most especially the Scottish Baronial style championed by J. J. Stevenson.7 Stevenson’s appeal to native traditions and no-nonsense functionalism suited Mackintosh. “The impact and understanding of the arts of Japan was vital to the development of his work. While Mackintosh certainly looked inward to his own country as a source of inspiration, he undoubtedly... was subtly and deeply affected by the 'alien' civilization of Japan.... He looked for spiritual meaning in the arts of Japan, and in them, found a new, historical, unencumbered source on which to draw for inspiration, though not for imitation.”8
All of these influences can be seen in Miss Cranston’s pièce de résistance: The Willow Tea Rooms.
The building already existed on the street named in Gaelic and meaning “a boggy place full of willows.”9 Mackintosh resurfaced the front in white, delineating and separating it from its neighboring structures with his characteristic checkerboard pattern. On the interior he applied his idea of the “total work of art”10 and, with Margaret, designed all the furnishings, fabrics, curtains, wall panel decorations, tables, chairs, carpets, light fixtures, cutlery, menu and even the dresses of the wait staff. Stanley Meister says of Mackintosh that he “approached every building, every room, as if he were composing a different poem, using his imagination to create something special and whole.”11
The design of the Willow Tea Rooms was built around these lines from The Four Willowwood Sonnets of Dante Gabriel Rossetti:Oh ye, all ye that walk in Willowwood
That walk with hollow faces burning bright…12
Margaret gave these lines a literal treatment in the gesso panel she designed for the Room de Luxe. Mackintosh's interpretation was more abstracted; nonetheless, the whole of the interior alludes to this willow design. Most famous of all was his design for the single proprietor’s chair with its geometric and stylized trunk, the rising, then falling, willow branches on its curved back, and its substantial half-round seat, which was shaped like a cool pool of water. This chair was sufficiently large that it doubled in function as room-dividing screen.
For the most complete description of the Willow Tea Rooms, its interiors and exterior, readers are recommended to Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings, and Interior Designs by Roger Billcliffe.13 For this brief introduction, only a few special aspects of the rooms will be highlighted:
After passing through the entrance and behind a white enameled screen with lead-glass panels, customers came to the central cashier’s station. From there they had the choice of going into the ladies’ tea room at the front of the building, to a darker, general lunch salon at the back, or upstairs to the tea gallery which was built around an open well. These interconnected spaces were separated by ironwork screens and were coordinated, though distinctly decorated. The ladies’ tea room was light in white, pink and silver and in it was a dramatic, nine-foot high flower container, straddling two tables with a large transparent glass bowl, inside of which were suspended test-tubes for holding flowers;14 the darker salon had gray paneling with some pink in the stenciling. These two rooms shared two (2) chair designs. Both were dark, a ladder-back with curved rungs, and a boxy armchair.15 Upstairs the meals were a bit more costly and the space was enclosed by an entry door designed with a “kimono shape, crowned with natural forms, particularly the traditional Glasgow-style rose.16 This was the Room de Luxe, mirrored with decorations in silver, gray and pink. Here there was a “Japanese sense of order and simplicity... with a portion of the roof removed and replaced with muslin, which [brought] a gentle, flattering, shadowless illumination to the interior.”17 The high-backed silver chairs at the tables had oval cut outs and squares of purple glass while at the sides of the room lower, curved backed chairs, also in sliver, had purple upholstery. It was in this room that Margaret’s moody gesso panel was hung.18 The Willow Tea Rooms were electrically lit and the most dramatic of its lighting fixtures was in the Room de Luxe, a “chandelier of countless pink glass baubles, remembered by a bewitched young Mary Newberry as ‘absolutely perfectly beautiful.’”19
Although it does not survive exactly as designed by Mackintosh, the Willow Tea Rooms can still be visited at 217 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, Scotland G23EX. It is next to McLellan Galleries and a five minute walk from the Glasgow School of Art. Incorporated into the adjacent Daly’s Department Store in 1927, the space was first used by Daly's as a Bridal Department. In December 1983, Anne Mulhern recreated the Room de Luxe in the original location to the original design, and in February 1996 she followed with the Gallery. Today, teas and light lunches continue to be served there, and at a second location, 97 Buchanan Street, immediately next door to Kate Cranston's original Buchanan Street Tea Rooms. It contains recreations of the White Dining Room and Chinese Room, both from her Ingram Street site.
Reservations can be made by contacting Margaret Daly:
Phone: 44 (0)141 332 0521
Through the online form: http://www.willowtearooms.co.uk/reservation.htm.20
RELATED WEB SITES
The Willow Tea Rooms
Here can be found information about the Tea Rooms, their history and their current state. This is also a commercial enterprise with some fun items for sale including a selection of story boards relating to Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Willow Tea Rooms which can be purchased unmounted, mounted or framed. Each story board is accompanied by a luxury black envelope with the Lady Rose embossed on it and measuring 15 x 41 cm / 6 x 16 inches; or perhaps a “Gift Voucher for Afternoon Tea” at the Willow Tea Rooms, in either Sauchiehall Street or Buchanan Street. Afternoon Tea consists of a selection of sandwiches, a scone with jam and cream, buttered shortbread, your choice of cake from the cake cabinet and tea or coffee. And, of course there is a large selection of loose leaf teas including fruit and herbal teas, in the Willow Tea Rooms caddy or not, depending on how much you are willing to spend at:
On a more serious note, the Directory of Links on this site is very impressive:
Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society
Established in 1973 and housed in the Queen’s Cross Church, the only church designed by Mackintosh ever to be built, the purpose of this not-for-profit organization is “to promote and encourage awareness of the Scottish architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.” The church is open for visitation and the cost of annual membership for students is about $25.00 US (15 GBP). This is the Web site to use to begin any online study of Mackintosh. There are 12 (twelve) virtual tours of locations designed by Mackintosh as just one aspect of the many things this site has to offer at:
Glasgow School of Art
Founded in 1845 as a Government School of Design, The Glasgow School of Art has grown to become one of the United Kingdom's preeminent institutions for the study and advancement of fine art, design and architecture. Degrees are awarded by The University of Glasgow, one of the world's top 100 universities with an international reputation for its research and teaching. GSA is a small, specialized and highly focused international creative community undertaking research at the highest levels. In the UK-wide Research Assessment Exercise of 2008, the GSA was ranked as the second largest art and design research community in the UK, with 25% of its research considered to be world leading and a further 25% internationally recognized. To read more about Francis Newberry and Charles Rennie Mackintosh see the
Our History page at:
The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery at the University of Glasgow
The entire collection of the Hunterian Museum is a “Recognized Collection of National Significance to Scotland” and includes art, archeology, natural history, medicine, zoology, coins and minerals, as well as the university archive. Here you will find a reconstruction of the principal interiors from the Glasgow home of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864-1933):
The couple lived at 78 Southpark Avenue (originally 6 Florentine Terrace) from 1906 to 1914. The house was purchased by the University of Glasgow in 1946. The generosity of the vendors, the Davidson family, led to the simultaneous gift of all of the original furniture. In 1963 the house was demolished, however, an extensive survey was first made and all salvageable fittings were removed to enable the future reconstruction of the hall, dining room, studio-drawing room and main bedroom. While the architects, Whitfield Partners, conceived The Mackintosh House as an integral part of the Hunterian Art Gallery, they took pains to ensure that the sequence of rooms exactly reflected the original. Virtually the same views and effects of natural light are enjoyed, as 78 Southpark Avenue stood only some 100 meters (less than 350 feet) away.
Part of the prestigious European furniture manufacturers, the Poltrona Frau Group, Cassina has been under contract to the University of Glasgow since 1971 to make high end reproductions of Mackintosh designs as part of the "I Maestri" collection which also includes designs by Franco Albini, Erik Gunnar Asplund, Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, and Frank Lloyd Wright. The catalog of the Mackintosh Collection is available at:
The Design Museum
London’s Design Museum is currently involved in a major move and much of the collection cannot be seen at present, as the entire organization is being reevaluated. When the new location opens there will be more space and more programming, but still in keeping with the basic mission which is based on the belief that "without better design, better use of scarce resources, and more innovation, the future won’t work." Design is seen as an integral part of every aspect of life: a way to understand the world around us and to make it a better place to live. The online resources at this site are excellent and both a time line and bibliography are included in the essay on Mackintosh at:
If you have never visited the Great Building site, now is the time – very thorough information, images and 3-D models of over 1,000 classics of world architecture, with information on hundreds of their designers. Great Buildings is a wonderful online reference for the study of architecture. Here you will find three (3) Mackintosh buildings: The Glasgow School of Art, Hill House (his finest residential commission) and the Willow Tea Rooms at:
Official site of Scotland’s national tourism organization. Yes, everything you imagine that would be here is, from the sheep to the castles with images and itineraries and lots of great suggestions for food, accommodation and more. Of interest is the 2-day walking tour “A Mackintosh Trail” at:
As well as the essay about Mackintosh at:
Publishers of fine art and illustrated books. The definitive catalog of the 1996 international Mackintosh exhibition edited by Wendy Kaplan is available for $75.00:
Publishers of books and related printed materials like note cards, pads and etc. on art, design, performing arts, Asian Studies, metaphysics and more, including Perilla Kinchin’s Taking Tea with Mackintosh: The Story of Miss Cranston’s Tea Rooms, available for $19.95. In fact, there is an entire gallery of Mackintosh items availabel here:
This is a password protected, log-in required site for the purchase and download of fonts. Seven of Mackintosh's alphabet fonts and one of his ornamental fonts are available at:
Local History Room, Fayetteville Free Library
Special thanks for assistance with this research go to Linda Ryan, Local History Librarian at the Fayetteville Free Library, 300 Orchard Street, Fayetteville, New York 13066. The Local History Room is open from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and by appointment. Ms. Ryan’s phone number is: 315.637.6374, ext. 318; Fax: 315.637.2306 and her e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Because the Stickley Furniture Factory is located in this community, the library holds an impressive collection related to the Arts and Crafts Movement. Their materials on Charles Rennie Mackintosh are extensive, especially in the Mary Ann Smith Arts and Crafts Memorial Collection, which must be used on site.
The Arts and Crafts Society of Central New York
Much of the material (which is fairly substantial) on this Syracuse, New York based organization’s Web site is related to the Arts and Crafts Movement in the United States. Nonetheless, there is a brief article on Charles Rennie Mackintosh with links and a brief bibliography of additional materials at:
- Wendy Kaplan, ed., Charles Rennie Mackintosh (New York: Abbeville Press, 1996), 6.
- Elizabeth Wilhide, The Mackintosh Style: Design and Décor (San Francisco: Chronicle Books: 1995), 20.
- Perilla Kinchin, Taking Tea with Mackintosh: The Story of Miss Cranston’s Tea Rooms (San Francisco: Pomegranate Press, 1998), 18.
- Ibid., 51.
- Ibid., 18.
- Wilhide, The Mackintosh Style: Design and Décor, 21.
- Fiona and Isla Hackney, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (Secaucus, NJ: Chartwell Books, 1989), 18.
- Anthony Jones, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (Secaucus, NJ: Wellfleet Press, 1990), 37-38.
- Kaplan, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 274.
- Jones, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 164.
- Stanley Meisler, “Ahead of the Curve: The Art of Charles Rennie Mackintosh,” Smithsonian 27, issue 10 (January 1997), accessed March 21, 2011, doi: 00377333.
- John McKean & Colin Baxter, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Architect, Artist, Icon (Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press, 2000(?), 75. The full text of “The Four Willowwood Sonnets: from The House of Life by Dante Gabriel Rossetti can be found at The Victorian Web: Literature, History and Culture in the Age of Victoria, last modified April 9, 2008, http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/dgr/willowwood.html.
- Roger Billcliffe, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings, and Interior Designs (New York: Taplinger Publishing, 1979).
- Pamela Robertson, Flowers: Charles Rennie Mackintosh (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995), 98.
- Kinchin, Taking Tea with Mackintosh: The Story of Miss Cranston’s Tea Rooms, 52-53.
- Jones, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 168.
- Ibid., 167.
- Kinchin, Taking Tea with Mackintosh: The Story of Miss Cranston’s Tea Rooms, 59.
- Ibid, 100; and the Web site of The Willow Tea Rooms, accessed April 25, 2011 at http://www.willowtearooms.co.uk.
Billcliffe, Roger. Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings, and Interior Designs. New York: Taplinger Publishing, 1979.
Hackney, Fiona and Isla Hackney. Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Secaucus, NJ: Chartwell Books, 1989.
Jones, Anthony. Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Secaucus, NJ: Wellfleet Press, 1990.
Kaplan, Wendy, ed. Charles Rennie Mackintosh. New York: Abbeville Press, 1996.
Kinchin, Perilla. Taking Tea with Mackintosh: The Story of Miss Cranston’s Tea Rooms. San Francisco: Pomegranate Press, 1998.
McKean, John and Colin Baxter. Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Architect, Artist, Icon. Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press, 2000(?).
Meiser, Stanley. “Ahead of the Curve: The Art of Charles Rennie Mackintosh,” Smithsonian 27, issue 10 (January 1997), accessed March 21, 2011, doi: 00377333.
Robertson, Pamela. Flowers: Charles Rennie Mackintosh. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995.
Wilhide, Elizabeth. The Mackintosh Style: Design and Décor. San Francisco: Chronicle Books: 1995.
This page in THE FOXFILES would not have been possible without Professor Andrea Reeves of the Art Department at Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, New York. Her suggestions and guidance were invaluable and the overall design of the site was much improved by the addition of several images which she prepared using PhotoShop. Many thanks. Prof. Reeves can be contacted by email at: email@example.com
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