Charles Rennie Mackintosh Designing from Tradition

Decorative Arts Auction Highlight

This pair of chairs, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, were just one of the highlights of our recent Decorative Arts: Design from 1860 auction that took place on 25 March 2015 in Edinburgh.  Head of Department, John Mackie, tells us more about these pieces, that sold for £12,500 (premium included), below.  

In 1911, when these chairs were made, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was in the last phase of creativity as an architect and designer in Glasgow, before he and his wife Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh moved to Walberswick in Suffolk. During that year he was commissioned by Miss Cranston to provide designs for the temporary White Cockade tearoom at the Glasgow Exhibition. He also produced redesigns of furniture and interior decorations for The Chinese Room and designed a new room, The Cloister Room, both for Miss Cranston's Ingram Street Tearooms.



mackintosh chairs


At the same time he worked on a series of furniture designs for his friend, the decorator William Douglas, who worked from premises in West George Street and was employed on various projects by Mackintosh including Hous'hill, Miss Cranston's home, in 1904. Amongst the furniture designed for Douglas was a set of six oak dining chairs, of which this pair forms part.

The chairs are stained dark and designed in the brander back style, so called in Scotland because of their backs' resemblance to the brander iron or gridiron used over the fire to cook meat or to toast oatcakes. The origins of the brander back date to the late 18th century or earlier. The simple concept of vertical back slats was used on chairs in one interpretation or another for all levels of society throughout Scotland until the second half of the 19th century when it fell out of fashion.



Charles Rennie Mackintosh Chair


Mackintosh's genius was that he had the ability to make something new out of tradition, as these deceptively simple chairs demonstrate. In common with, for example, his interpretations of ladder back chairs in various manifestations; Mackintosh has designed his own version of this vernacular chair. The back, typically squat, has been elongated, and the number of slats doubled from a characteristic four to eight. He has further accentuated the vertical character of the chair by omitting the cross-stretchers, normally found to the front and rear.

Mackintosh was one of the most influential Scottish architects and designers of his time and the main representative of Art Nouveau in the United Kingdom. He still has considerable influence over European design today.






Wednesday 25 March | 11:00 | Edinburgh
John Mackie
0131 557 8844 |


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