Following the success of his designs for Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street Tearooms in 1911, Mackintosh spent the next few years struggling to find work, and by 1914 he and his wife Margaret 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. Bassett 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 the current lot, 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 are delighted to include this wonderful cabinet by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in our forthcoming auction of Decorative Arts: Design since 1860 taking place live online over two days this November.