Frances MacDonald

Who was Frances MacDonald?

Frances Macdonald
Frances MacDonald

Frances MacDonald (1873–1921) was a Scottish artist whose design work was a prominent feature of the Glasgow Style during the 1890s.

Margaret’s sister Frances was also very talented and married fellow artist Herbert MacNair.

The sister of better known artist Margaret MacDonald, she was born near Wolverhampton, and moved to Glasgow with her family in 1890.

Both sisters enrolled in painting classes at the Glasgow School of Art in 1891. Here they met the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and artist Herbert MacNair.

Frances would marry MacNair, and Margaret married MackIntosh. All four later became the loose collective of the Glasgow School known as ‘The Four’.

Frances MacDonald
‘Spring’ Frances MacDonald
© The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow

In the mid 1890s the sisters left the School to set up an independent studio together.

They collaborated on graphics, textile designs, book illustrations and metalwork. They both had a distinctive style influenced by mysticism, symbolism and Celtic imagery.

Frances MacDonald
‘Girl in a Tree’ Frances MacDonald
© The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow

Frances also produced a wide variety of other artistic work. This included embroidery, gesso panels and water colour paintings.

Like her sister, she was influenced by the work of William Blake and Aubrey Beardsley.

The sisters exhibited in London, Liverpool and Venice.

Frances MacDonald
‘Prince and the Sleeping Princess’ by Frances MacDonald
© The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow

In 1899 she married Herbert MacNair and moved to Liverpool. It was here he taught at the School of Architecture and Applied Art.

The couple painted watercolours and designed interiors. They exhibited in Writing Room at the International Exhibition of Modern Art in Turin. Frances also began teaching during this time.

In the early 1900s they also exhibited in Liverpool, London, Vienna and Dresden.

Sadly the School closed in 1905. This was due to loss of the MacNair family wealth through business failure. They both suffered a decline in their careers, and returned to Glasgow in 1909.

Frances painted a moving series of symbolist watercolours addressing the choices facing women, such as marriage and motherhood.

Frances’ achievements are less well known than those of her sister. This may be due to her departure from Glasgow. Also also because her husband destroyed many of her works after her death.

Both sisters works were also frequently overshadowed by the achievements of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Frances died in Glasgow in 1921.

Information provided by Wikipedia

Here’s a short video I found on YouTube from Francis C. of Frances’ designs.


Discover more about Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Discover more about Margaret MacDonald

Discover more about Herbert Mac Nair

See a list of Charles Rennie Mackintosh Projects
Don’t forget to…

Charles Rennie Mackintosh Store