In 1911, 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 three years later. 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.
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 Lot 362, a previously unrecorded gate-leg table in oak with distinctive and characteristic chequer decoration which extends around the piece. In keeping with other furniture in this group the table’s design has its origins in earlier furniture styles. It is unusual to see the painted design applied directly to the furniture although the design is a frequently used motif. Mackintosh did use this stencilled technique in a later scheme for W.J. Bassett-Lowke at 78 Derngate, Northampton from 1916-19.
Following the success of his designs for Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street Tearooms, by 1914 Mackintosh and his wife had moved to Walberswick in Suffolk. They remained in close contact with Francis Newberry and his family, who spent their summer holidays in cottages nearby.
Mackintosh’s main client during this period was W. J. Bassett Lowke, of 78 Derngate, Northampton. Basett Lowke had fostered early connections with those involved in the Deutscher Werkbund movement, which played a central role in the development of modern architecture and industrial design. Having not heard of Mackintosh prior to 1914, Bassett Lowke hired him for a project following the recommendation of a close friend. After leaving Glasgow, Mackintosh was keen to explore the inspirations he found during his visit to Vienna in 1900, and this married well with Bassett Lowke’s open-minded approach to the design and manufacturing process.
In Lot 368, Mackintosh places a clear emphasis on angular lines, minimal decoration and a far more solid sense of form; a departure from the curvilinear and stylised decorative motifs which dominated much of his earlier work. Typically, Mackintosh would have personally advised the furniture maker, amending his designs as the piece was in the midst of construction. However, under Basset-Lowke, Mackintosh had to rely on his drawings to communicate his wishes to the company’s craftsmen, many of whom were German immigrants working on the Isle of Man. Designs focussed on broad planes of timber, polished and waxed rather than stained, enhanced by details of abalone inlay. The result is an array of visually striking furniture with an elegant decorative effect that defines his work in Northampton.
We were delighted to include these wonderful examples of furniture design by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in our November 2020 auction of Decorative Arts: Design since 1860 which took place live online over two days.