This exhibition pairs selected examples of Glasgow interiors with iconic Mackintosh chairs to showcase the epitome of Glasgow Style and Art Nouveau hidden inside local buildings.
By looking at the facades of urban buildings and exterior cityscapes, we understand something of a city: its wealth, location, purpose, international connections, local materials and vernaculars. But by looking behind the facades, which we often do not have the chance to do, we learn a story about the people of a city: who these buildings were made for, and why. Often we imagine and re-imagine interior spaces over the years; as they change, whether through desire or necessity, they show us what has changed about our city’s communities 200 years on and what’s still the same; what’s universal.
Between 1870 and 1905, during an economic boom in Glasgow that embraced a burst of creative expression in the city, many architects, artists and designers channelled the ‘new art’ – Glasgow Style – in their work.
Those responsible for designing buildings during this period, populated by a growing bourgeoisie, often adopted the Glasgow Style in their designs, particularly throughout interior ornamentation in homes, public offices and leisure spaces. The widespread popularity of the Glasgow Style amongst the burgeoning middle classes is important in the context of local identity. The essential character and allure of a city is not solely defined by its grand public edifices of architectural icons, but often by the local vernacular and of course the citizens, and nowhere is this more true than in Glasgow.
Glasgow Style ornamentation with its delicate colour palette and motifs drawn from the nature surrounding the city, and close links with the European avant-garde, was an effective way for the bourgeoisie to identify themselves as modern, civilised and in harmony with the values and taste of the popular artistic scene of the time.
Mackintosh had been designing chairs and cabinets throughout the 1890s, but it was Miss Cranston’s Tearoom project in the late 1890s that really established him as a furniture designer. By 1900, Margaret Macdonald and Charles Rennie Mackintosh were married and invited to take part in the exhibition Vienna Secession. The work received great critical and public acclaim and was the forerunner for the Mackintosh collaborative design project for a House for an Art Lover competition.
Credits and Thanks:
A special credit and thanks to Helen Kendrick for the interiors interpretation, Peter Trowles for the furniture interpretation, Neale Smith for all photography, and the Glasgow School of Art & Bruce Hamilton for the loan of furniture.
The images featured in this exhibition can be found in the book:
Glasgow Interiors (Birlinn: 2014)
The chairs featured in this exhibition are reproductions of Mackintosh originals made by Bruce Hamilton Furniture, a Glasgow-based furniture maker. Each reproduction piece is painstakingly researched – measured and sketched prior to construction using traditional techniques and materials.