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Collecting the Legacy of Charles Rennie Mackintosh


Charles Rennie Mackintosh left an exceptional body of work across arts, architecture and interior design. He was someone who was very much of his time – but who was also looking to the future through his work, and who has remained enduringly popular.

All of which makes it remarkable that there was no complete catalogue of his work, including architectural drawings, until one was completed recently by Pamela Robertson, Professor Emerita of Mackintosh Studies and Honorary Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

“Charles Rennie Mackintosh was part of a tradition of architects who designed both buildings and their interiors,” she says. “He saw the room as a work of art. He didn’t just focus on the shell of the building; to him architecture was much more that. He was interested in the furniture, in metalwork; he wanted to create a complete work of art.

“But while he wasn’t the first to do this, I believe his work stands up as having a particularly powerful legacy.”

This legacy is even more remarkable as the architecture and designer didn’t set out to develop heirs to his style.

“There wasn’t a ‘school of Mackintosh’ as such,” says Professor Robertson. “He didn’t work like that and didn’t want to hand his style down in that way.

“But as an inspiration for successive generations his influence has been huge and in many ways his legacy is manifested in the way he inspired architects to be individuals.

“We see his enduring popularity in the number of tourists who come to Glasgow to visit the buildings he designed, and in the success of exhibitions and retrospectives.”

In particular, his work seems to appeal to a Japanese sensibility and there is a defined aesthetic quality to his work – particularly his use of single bits of colour and stained timber – which is reminiscent of traditional Japanese design.

Given his enduring popularity it was surprising that there was no catalogue of his architecture, his architectural drawings and the context of these buildings until Professor Robertson began to compile one.

'Mackintosh Architecture' provides a richly-illustrated catalogue of all known architectural projects by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

The site also provides entries for projects by the practice, John Honeyman & Keppie / Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh during the Mackintosh years 1889–1913; alongside images and data from the office record books, over 1200 drawings, analytical and contextual essays; biographies of over 400 clients, colleagues, contractors and suppliers; timeline; glossary; and bibliography.

This research was based on first-hand analysis of both the buildings and primary sources. Archival records, including planning submissions, correspondence, office job books, and later surveys have been evaluated to map out timelines, development of the projects, budgets, and history of change.

All of the known architectural drawings have been catalogued, photographed and evaluated. Clients, colleagues, contractors and suppliers have been identified and researched.

Period and later photographs have been recorded, scanned and assessed to help determine project history and provide a record of subsequent change. Principal lifetime periodicals and exhibition records in Scotland, the UK, continental Europe and the US have been consulted as well as key architectural histories for posthumous narrative, to evaluate dissemination and reception.                      

Analysis of contemporary building types, including schools, art schools, commercial buildings and domestic villas, has been undertaken to provide comparative assessments.

“What we’ve created is useful for both amateur and professional researchers,” says Professor Robertson. “It also enabled the first ever condition survey of his legacy – which will help inform maintenance, restoration and conservation.”

Rennie Mackintosh is the subject of a major exhibition at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which runs until August 14 2018. (https://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/event/2/charles-rennie-mackintosh-making-the-glasgow-style)

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