- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Not so long ago, the furniture of innovative Glasgow-born architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) was broken up for firewood. Today art books are devoted to his distinctive, astonishingly elegant Arts and Crafts- and art nouveau-influenced interiors, and artisans around the world look to his theory that "decoration should not be constructed, rather construction should be decorated" as holy law. Mackintosh's stripped-down designs ushered in the modern age with their deceptively stark style.
An Architect's Career
Mackintosh trained in architecture at the Glasgow School of Art and was apprenticed to the Glasgow firm of John Hutchison at the age of 16. Early influences on his work included the Pre-Raphaelites, James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98), and Japanese art. But by the 1890s a distinct Glasgow style developed.
The building for the Glasgow Herald newspaper, which he designed in 1893 and which is now the Lighthouse Centre for Architecture, Design and the City, was soon followed by other major Glasgow buildings: Queen Margaret's Medical College; the Martyrs Public School; tearooms including the Willow Tearoom; the Hill House, in Helensburgh, now owned by the National Trust for Scotland; and Queen's Cross Church, completed in 1899 and now the headquarters of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society. In 1897 Mackintosh began work on a new home for the Glasgow School of Art, recognized as one of his major achievements.
Mackintosh married Margaret Macdonald in 1900, and in later years her decorative work enhanced the interiors of his buildings. In 1904 he became a partner in Honeyman and Keppie and designed Scotland Street School, now the Scotland Street School Museum, in the same year. Until 1913, when he left Honeyman and Keppie and moved to England, Mackintosh's projects included buildings over much of Scotland. He preferred wherever possible to include interiors as part of his overall design.
Commissions in England after 1913 included design challenges not confined to buildings, such as fabrics, furniture, and even bookbindings. Mackintosh died in London in 1928.
After 1904 architectural taste had turned against Mackintosh's style; his work was seen as strange. Mackintosh could not conform to the times; he lost commissions, drank heavily, and ended up poor and sick. His reputation revived only in the 1950s with the publication of his monographs.
How to See His Work
Glasgow is the best place in the world to admire Mackintosh's work: in addition to the buildings mentioned above, most of which can be visited, the Hunterian Art Gallery contains magnificent reconstructions of the principal rooms at 78 Southpark Avenue, Mackintosh's Glasgow home, and original drawings, documents, and records, plus the re-creation of a room at 78 Derngate, Northampton.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Fodor's 100 Hotel Awards: Check out the winners of 2013
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe