Walker Art Gallery’s Charles Rennie Mackintosh exhibition a first outside of Scotland

Charles Rennie Mackintosh aged about 25 courtesy The Mitchell Library

Must-see objects will be displayed outside of Scotland for the first time

The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, is set to hold a major exhibition exploring the life and work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) and his contemporaries, presenting many objects which have never before been displayed outside of Scotland. The Walker will be the only English gallery to host the exhibition.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Making the Glasgow Style, a Glasgow Museums touring exhibition, runs from 15 March to 26 August 2019. The exhibition takes place during what would have been Mackintosh’s 150th year (b. 7 June 1868) and features more than 250 objects, ranging from ceramics and embroidery to stained glass, metalwork and architectural drawings.

The Glasgow Style, a distinctive variant of Art Nouveau, grew out of the technical studios of the Glasgow School of Art and the radically original work of a group of brilliant young designers. They embraced the freedoms offered by the Aesthetic Movement and educational reform.

Poster for the Glasgow Institute of Fine Art about 1895 Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Courtesty The Huntarian University of Glasgow
Poster for the Glasgow Institute of Fine Art about 1894-95 Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Courtesty The Huntarian University of Glasgow

Alyson Pollard, Senior Curator, National Museums Liverpool, said: “The work of Charles Rennie Macintosh spans many disciplines, from interior design to architecture, and so we’re looking forward to showing visitors the impressive breadth of his work, as well as its enduring influence.

“As a city, Liverpool shares many similarities with Glasgow, from its industrial heritage as a port city, to its cultural heart and history of producing talented creatives. We’ve greatly enjoyed working with Glasgow Museums to bring this wonderful show to Liverpool, which we’re sure will be extremely popular with visitors.”

Specifically, the Glasgow Style developed out of a meeting of minds between Mackintosh and James Herbert McNair, who worked together at an architects practice, and the sisters Frances and Margaret Macdonald. Mackintosh and McNair attended evening classes at Glasgow School of Art, where the sisters were students. Together, they became known as ‘The Four’.

The Four’s close relationship and deep understanding of one another developed into romance for McNair and Frances, who married in 1899, and for Mackintosh and Margaret, who married in 1900. The Mackintoshes often worked together harmoniously on different projects, inspiring and supporting one another. Work by all four artists features in the exhibition.

A sense of energetic joy, humour and personal expression can be seen in many early works made in the Glasgow Style. Furniture had presence and personality, while walls were stencilled with an abundance of stylised natural forms. Surfaces were frequently inlaid with texture and colour.

Mackintosh himself took inspiration from many sources including traditional Scottish forms, Japanese simplicity, geometry and nature. He analysed, drew together and refined ideas to create inventive three-dimensional forms and harmonious design schemes.

From the age of 28, Mackintosh began to undertake the interior decoration for the artistic tearooms run by Glasgow businesswoman Miss Catherine Cranston. These fantastical spaces gave him an important outlet to develop his visual language and imagination.

The exhibition will showcase panelling, furniture and light fittings from many of these Tearooms, as well as a section from the Chinese Room of the Ingram Street Tearooms, which has not previously been displayed outside of Scotland.

Mackintosh went on to design the new Glasgow School of Art, completed in two phases from 1897-99 and 1907-09. As the building grew, so did the facilities, equipment and the range of subjects taught. The complexity and sophistication of the building design, combined with his determination to push boundaries, created something truly inspirational.

The building, which suffered tragic loss through two fires in 2014 and 2018, would become his masterwork. In displaying a selection of Mackintosh’s architectural drawings, combined with archive footage of the School, the exhibition provides a unique insight into the artist’s inimitable approach to design.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Making the Glasgow Style presents the very best of Glasgow’s internationally important civic collections, drawing from those of Glasgow Museums and The Mitchell Special Collections and Glasgow City Archives. It also includes some important loans from The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, Glasgow School of Art and from private collections.

Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life and Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “We are delighted to loan this magnificent exhibition to National Museums Liverpool to continue the celebration of Glasgow’s great cultural icon, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

“The exhibition gives fans of Mackintosh the space and time to enjoy a wealth of stunning artworks and objects, many of which have never before been shown outside of Glasgow. At the same time it enables us to share the Glasgow Style story, influence and legacy with a whole new audience.

“Glasgow is proud of its extensive art collection, considered one of the finest in Europe. Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s ground-breaking work is synonymous with Glasgow and lauded internationally so it is only right that we widen the access to these works so people across the country, and indeed the world, can enjoy them.”

To find out more about the exhibition, and to purchase tickets, visit liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mackintosh