J.Herbert MacNair

Who was J. Herbert MacNair?

J. Herbert MacNair
J. Herbert MacNair

J. Herbert MacNair (December 23, 1868 – April 22, 1955), was a Scottish artist, designer and teacher. His work contributed to the development of the ‘Glasgow Style’ during the 1890s.

Born in Glasgow into a military family, MacNair trained as an architect with the Glasgow firm of Honeyman and Keppie from 1888 to 1895. It was there that he first met Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

The two attended evening classes at the Glasgow School of Art between 1888 and 1894. It was there they met the MacDonald sisters, Margaret and Frances.

J. Herbert MacNair
Bookplate for John Turnbull Knox’s book
‘The Tree of Knowledge’ by J.Herbert MacNair
© Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery, University of Glasgow

MacNair would go on to marry Frances, and Mackintosh would marry Margaret.

All four later became the Glasgow School known as ‘The Four’. MacNair being the least well known.

J. Herbert MacNair
‘Fountain’ by J. Herbert MacNair
© Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery, University of Glasgow

They were influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement. Also other European movements such as Symbolism and Art Nouveau. This is who they pioneered the ‘Glasgow Style’.

MacNair set up his own studio in Glasgow in 1895. He was a designer producing furniture, book illustrations, water colours and posters.

Find out more ‘The Group of Four’ at the Hunterian Art Gallery – Online Mackintosh Catalogue‘.

MacNair’s had significant influence as a teacher following his move to Liverpool in 1898. He was appointed as Instructor in Design at the School of Architecture and Applied Art.

In 1899 Frances Macdonald joined MacNair in Liverpool and the two married.

The couple painted water colours and designed interiors. They also exhibited a Writing Room at the International Exhibition of Modern Art in Turin.

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

Following closure of the School in 1905, the couple returned to Glasgow in 1909.

MacNair’s career went into decline from this period, and no works of his are known beyond 1911.

Sadly, after the death of his wife Frances in 1921, MacNair destroyed all of their works that he had in his possession.

He then moved to Argyll, where he lived until his death in 1955.

Information provided by Wikipedia

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