Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Just who was Charles Rennie Mackintosh?

Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Charles Rennie Mackintosh
(c) T & R Annan

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1868. His unique, innovative style would change the art world forever.

But life was not always easy for Charles. From childhood he suffered from disabilities that lasted a lifetime.

He walked with a limp and developed a problem with his right eye which caused it to droop.

Because of this, Charles was encouraged to spend time in the countryside when he was young.

It was his love of the countryside and flora which was to manifest itself later in his life.

Mackintosh enrolled at the Glasgow School of Art at the age of fifteen.

A year later he joined John Hutchison architectural practice to train as a draughtsman.

After completing his apprenticeship he moved to Honeyman and Keppie in 1889.

In 1890 Charles won the coveted ‘Alexander Thomson Travelling Studentship’ for Public Design.

With his prize of £60, he decided to travel to Italy and Europe.

This trip was to change his life. He then developed an individual style, influenced greatly by his experiences in Europe. Japanese Art also added a depth to his new found ideas.

Glasgow School of Art by Charles Rennie Mackintosh
The Glasgow School of Art designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Mackintosh continued his studies at the Glasgow School of Art . The new principal Francis Newbery had radically transformed the School.

He encouraged the students to follow the latest trends in art, design, crafts and architecture.

It was here that Charles Rennie Mackintosh met fellow artist Margaret MacDonald. Margaret and her sister Frances would have a profound influence on his life.

Margaret’s sister Frances MacDonald married fellow artist Herbert Mac Nair. The two couples became known as the ‘The Four’ and formed the ‘Glasgow Style’.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Cabinet for a Drawing Room by Charles Rennie Mackintosh
© The Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery, University of Glasgow

Both couples later married and changed the face of art forever. Charles went on to become a partner of Honeyman and Keppie in 1907.

The couple later moved to England (1914-1922). Here he produced many beautiful watercolor paintings.

The couple holidayed in the south of France in 1923. They moved there permanently in 1925, due in part to financial hardship.

Charles created a portfolio of beautiful landscape watercolour paintings during this time.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh watercolours
‘Fritillaria’ by Charles Rennie Mackintosh
© The Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery, University of Glasgow

The couple remained in France until 1927, when illness forced them to return to London.

Sadly Charles was diagnosed with throat and tongue cancer. He died on December 10, 1928, at the age of 60.

Margaret passed away on 10 January 1933, five years after her beloved husband Charles.

Here’s a video from Rampant Scotland which includes many of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s famous works.

Discover more about Margaret MacDonald

Discover more about Frances Mac Donald

Discover more about Herbert Mac Nair

See a list of Charles Rennie Mackintosh Projects