Born near Wolverhampton, Frances Macdonald McNair moved with her family to Glasgow in 1890. She and her older sister, Margaret, later enrolled at Glasgow School of Art in 1891 where they met fellow students Charles Rennie Mackintosh and J. Herbert McNair. By 1894 the Macdonald sisters had left the School of Art and established a studio where they made metalwork, embroideries, jewellery and craft items, often in collaboration with each other as well as McNair and Mackintosh. Together they became known as ‘The Four’, developing international reputations for their designs.
The sisters were especially skilled in jewellery and enamelling, but unfortunately little of their jewellery survives today. However, a handful of rare designs are still known, including the four examples to be offered in our October auction, which can be traced directly back through the family.
After marrying J. Herbert McNair in 1899, Frances moved with him to Liverpool where she taught classes in design at the Art Sheds at the University. On her return to Glasgow, in about 1908, she was also employed in the jewellery and textiles department at the Glasgow School of Art. Some examples of her early jewellery were exhibited at St George's Hall, Liverpool in 1900 and again in Turin in 1902.
Her designs demonstrate her distinctive elongated flowing lines, the depiction of stylised female forms and mystical plant imagery. After her son Sylvan was born in 1900, motherhood and children became another theme in her work, exemplified by The Spirit of the Rose design of circa 1902; a version of which she has adapted for the design of a pendant included in this auction (illustrated above).
We are delighted to present this rare select group of four beautifully executed jewellery designs by McNair in our forthcoming Design Since 1860 auction taking place over two days this October.
Lyon & Turnbull’s Decorative Arts & Design specialists are renowned for both their knowledge and their sales of artworks conducted from our Scottish auction house based in Edinburgh and via our live online auctions. Our specialists are experts not only on design from 1860 to the present, but also on current market conditions, an essential combination to any successful auction.