Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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Charles Rennie Mackintosh was one of the most important designers to lay the foundations for modernism. His elegant furniture designs grew out of the Arts and Crafts Movement in England, but soon left behind the chunky handmade format in favor of more elegant, slender lines and planes. Ultimately, his work bridged the Arts and Crafts Movement with Art Nouveau and influenced European design trends that would later be incorporated into the Bauhaus.

C. R. Mackintosh's penchant for angular elegance was more "decorative" than Arts and Crafts designs, but more restrained than Art Nouveau. He incorporated strong parallel lines (especially vertical lines), Japanese influence, and cool elegance into both his printed design work and his furniture design.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh Furniture

The first Charles Rennie Mackintosh furniture designs to see public display were furnishings of a room at the 1901 Vienna 8th Secessionist Exhibition. Though he had produced some fixtures and textiles for earlier exhibition in Scotland (his home), the Vienna show brought him international attention and press, and led to more commissions and design work. Much of his later work was developed outside of Britain, including in Austria, where it would influence Van De Velde and Hoffman, two pioneers of modernism.

Two of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's most enduring pieces of furniture are his Hill House Chair and his Willow Chair, both from 1904. They feature leather seats and thin, vertical backs interlaced with geometric patterns, and are designed more to operate as a function of space than as sturdy household objects. Though some of his later chairs returned to meaty proportions and solid planes, many of his early works seem to deny their materials totally in search of a more ethereal existence.


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