Scottish architect, designer (chiefly of furniture), and watercolourist, born and principally active in Glasgow. He was one of the most original and influential artists of his time and a major figure of *Art Nouveau. His most famous building is *Glasgow School of Art (1897–9), to which he later added a library block and other extensions (1907–9). They are strikingly original in style—clear, bold, and rational, yet with an element of fantasy. In his interior decoration and furniture design, often done in association with his wife, Margaret Macdonald (1864–1933), he worked in a sophisticated calligraphic style but avoided the exaggerated floral ornament often associated with Art Nouveau. His finest achievements in this field were four tea-rooms in Glasgow, designed with all their furniture and equipment for his patron Catherine Cranston (1897–c.
1911, now mainly destroyed). Mackintosh had an enormous reputation among the avant-garde on the Continent, especially in Germany and Austria, where the advanced style of the early 20th century was sometimes known as ‘Mackintoshismus’; his work was widely exhibited and he was particularly esteemed among members of the Vienna *Sezession, who urged him to come and live in the city. However, admiration was more restrained in his own country, where he antagonized fellow architects by criticizing traditional values: ‘How absurd it is to see modern churches, theatres, banks etc.…made in imitation of Greek temples’, he said in 1896. The First World War brought a decline in his career, for there was little call for work as sophisticated as his. In 1914 he moved to London and thereafter virtually gave up architecture. He did, however, do some fine work as a designer, particularly of fabrics. From 1923 to 1927 he lived at Port Vendres in the south of France, where he devoted himself to watercolour painting, mainly landscapes. He died in London of cancer. After the death of his wife five years later, the contents of their studios were officially appraised as ‘practically of no value’, but Mackintosh's reputation now stands very high in all the fields of his activity. See also Glasgow Four.
Text source: A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art (Oxford University Press)
Artworks by Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Alexander McCall (1830–1888), Police Chief*James Pittendrigh MacGillivray (1856–1938) and Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1928)