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Chair

  • Place of origin:

    Glasgow, Scotland (made)

  • Date:

    1897-1900 (designed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Mackintosh, Charles Rennie, born 1868 - died 1928 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    [Chair] Stained oak
    [Drop-in seat] Upholstery

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Glasgow School of Art

  • Museum number:

    CIRC.130:1, 2-1958

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, room 125g, case 3

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Object Type
This high-back chair is one of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's best-known designs. The parts are carefully shaped so that they alter in plan or section: most extraordinary are the back legs which are rectangular in plan at the base and then curve and taper upwards until they are circular in plan at the top. An explanation of the chair's appearance and design sources is not simple.

Places
The chair was originally designed by Mackintosh for the Luncheon Room of the Argyle Street Tea Rooms in Glasgow. The owner, Kate Cranston, commissioned Mackintosh and the interior designer George Walton to decorate and furnish the rooms in 1897.

Ownership & Use
Mackintosh used the same chairs in his own flat, which was designed by his wife, Margaret Macdonald, at 120 Mains Street, Glasgow in 1900. This example may have come from the dining room. It was one of six that remained in the collection of Margaret Macdonald upon her death in 1933.

Design & Designing
Many of Mackintosh's designs for the Argyle Street Tea Rooms had their roots in traditional furniture types - ladder-back chairs, deep settees, wing chairs. Although high-back chairs were fashionable around 1900, there is no obvious historical precedent for this particular design.

Physical description

High backed stained oak chair with drop-in seat. The top rail is in the form of an oval splat pierced with a crescent shape suggestive of a bird in flight. The splat pierces the uprights of the chair, which are themselves shaped from oblong at their base to circular section at the top. The back of the chair is attenuated so the top rail is above the head of the sitter. The elongated back uprights, continuous with the back legs, together with the long back splats that extend below the seat rail to the low stretcher, accentuate the height of the chair. The drop-in seat is upholstered and rests on corner blocks within the frame. The rear stretcher of the chair is a large oak block, straight above with a crescent shaped curved base. This contrasts with the pairs of narrow dowel stretchers on the sides and between the front legs.

The construction of the chair has been altered subtly in a way that affects its appearance. Originally the back splats were screwed to the back rail of the seat from below the seat. This effectively pinched the splats into the seat invisibly, giving them a slight curve into the lumbar region of the sitter. At some point, probably to relieve associated pressure on the mortices securing the splats into the oval top rail, these screws have been removed. The back splats are now about 1cm behind the back rail of the seat, and have no inward curve.

Place of Origin

Glasgow, Scotland (made)

Date

1897-1900 (designed)

Artist/maker

Mackintosh, Charles Rennie, born 1868 - died 1928 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

[Chair] Stained oak
[Drop-in seat] Upholstery

Marks and inscriptions

The frame of the chair is stamped or inscribed with a number. However, at the time of writing this catalogue entry, the chair is not available for inspection. Gareth Williams, 17 June 1999.

Dimensions

Height: 136.5 cm, Width: 50.3 cm, Depth: 45.5 cm

Object history note

Mackintosh originally designed this chair as part of the commission to furnish and decorate the Luncheon Room of the Argyle Street Tea Rooms in Glasgow. The owner Catherine 'Kate' Cranston commisioned Mackintosh and George Walton to decorate the rooms in 1897. The spatial arrangement of the Luncheon Room was undertaken by Walton who divided the long narrow room with 1.5 metre high partitions. Billcliffe suggests Mackintosh designed the high backs of the chairs so as not to be overwhelmed by the architecture (Billcliffe, 1979, p.47).

Sixteen chairs of this design are visible in contemporary photographs of the Luncheon Room, although more chairs are known to have been made at a later date as a additions or replacements.

In 1900, shortly after completing the Luncheon Room, Mackintosh married Margaret Macdonald and the couple set up home in a flat in 120 Mains Street, Glasgow. A contemporary photograph of the interior of the dining room shows a chair of this model.

This chair was one of six that remained in the collection of Margaret Macdonald upon her death in 1933. This provenance suggests that this is one of the chairs used by the Mackintosh's in their home in Mains Street around 1900 (and at later homes), rather than a chair used in the Argyle Street Tea Rooms.

Billcliffe records that Mrs Napier inherited the chairs from Margaret Macdonald, or acquired them from her estate. She presented them to the Glasgow School of Art in 1933. This chair was given to the V&A by Glasgow School of Art in 1958.

Descriptive line

High-backed oak chair, drop-in upholstered seat, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Britain, 1897-1900

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Billcliffe, Roger. Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings and Interior Designs. London and Guildford; Lutterworth Press, 1979 256p., ill. ISBN 0 7188 2376 1
1897.23, p.47
Wilk, Christopher (ed.). Western Furniture 1350 to the present day. London: Philip Wilson and V&A, 1996. 232p, ill. ISBN 1 85667 443 5
pp.182-183
Baker, Malcolm and Brenda Richardson (Eds.). A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Baltimore: Harry N. Abrams and The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1997, 432p., ill. ISBN 0 8109 3399 3
catalogue entry 169, pp358-340
Baker, Malcolm and Richardson, Brenda, eds. A Grand Design : The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V&A Publications, 1997. 431 p., ill. ISBN 1851773088.
The Scottish architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh was celebrated in Europe in the early 1900s, largely because of his contribution to the 1900 Vienna Secession exhibition, but his significance was forgotten in Britain until the 1950s. The V&A's 1952 exhibition "Victorian and Edwardian Decorative Arts" included ten pieces by Mackintosh; the Museum's first acquisition of his work, a small smokers' cabinet, followed in 1956. This chair was given by the Glasgow School of Art in 1958, with an additional group of furniture from the Ingram Street tearooms. Mackintosh had designed chairs of this rectilinear, elongated form for Miss Cranston's tearooms, 114 Argyle Street, Glasgow. When he married fellow artist and designer Margaret Macdonald in 1900, the couple reused the design for their own dining chairs, of which this is probably an example. Like much of Mackintosh's furniture, the design originated on the drawing board rather than at the work bench-construction and comfort were secondary to radical and elegant appearance.
Although Mackintosh was first recognised as a pioneer of modernism in the 1930s, his reputation was more firmly established by major international exhibitions in the 1960s, including the V&A's Mackintosh centenary exhibition of 1968.

Lit. Billcliffe, 1986, pp. 47-8; Wilk, 1996, p. 182

GARETH WILLIAMS
Greenhalgh, Paul Ed., Art Nouveau : 1890 - 1914. London: V&A Publications, 2000. 449 p., 2.21pl.

Exhibition History

A Grand Design (The Baltimore Museum of Art 12/10/1997-16/01/2000)
A Grand Design - The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum (Victoria and Albert Museum 12/10/1999-16/01/2000)
Art Nouveau (Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo 21/04/2001-08/07/2001)
Art Nouveau (National Gallery of Art, Washington 08/10/2000-28/01/2001)
Art Nouveau (Victoria and Albert Museum 06/04/2000-30/07/2000)

Labels and date

CHARLES RENNIE MACKINTOSH
(Scottish, 1868-1928)

CHAIR, 1897-1900
Oak, upholstered seat

The Scottish architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh was celebrated in Europe in the early 1900s, but his significance was overlooked in Britain until the 1950s (the V&A's first acquisition of his work was in 1956). A widespread recognition of his importance came only with the V&A's Centenary exhibition in 1968, ten years after the acquisition of this piece. Mackintosh had designed chairs of this rectilinear, elongated form for Miss Cranston's tearooms in Glasgow. When he married fellow artist and designer Margaret Macdonald in 1900, the couple re-used the design for their own dining chairs (of which this is probably an example). [pre March 2001]

Production Note

No maker is recorded for this model of chair. Roger Billcliffe suggests Francis Smith may have made replacement and additional chairs for the Argyle Street Tea Rooms, which are distinguishable from the first group of chairs (like this one) as they are of thicker construction. See Billcliffe, 1979, p.47

Reason For Production: Commission

Materials

Oak

Techniques

Joining; Staining; Upholstering

Categories

Furniture; Woodwork

Production Type

Limited edition

Collection code

FWK

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Qr_O11281
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