Welcome to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society.

Mackintosh in the Saleroom

A trio of items by Charles Rennie Mackintosh will go under the hammer on 19 April by Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh, as part of their Design since 1860 sale. Also included in the sale, the catalogue from the 1933 Memorial Exhibition.


oak, with brass handles and mother-of-pearl inlay 38cm (15in) wide, 168cm (66 1/8in) high, 33.6cm (13 1/4in) deep

Literature: Billcliffe, R. Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings & Interior Designs, Cameron & Hollis 2009, pp. 195-197, 1904.J period photograph of the Blue Bedroom illus.; pp. 207 and 208, 1904.65 ‘Design and layout of furniture for the Blue Bedroom’; 1904.67 ‘Cabinet for the Blue Bedroom, Hous’hill’; 1904.67 illus. Arwas V. Art Nouveau in Britain from Mackintosh to Liberty: The Birth of a Style, Andreas Papadakis, 2000, p.41, where this cabinet is illustrated.

Note: In 1903-04, after working together on The Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow for his patron Kate Cranston, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was invited to redecorate and refurbish her home ‘Hous’hill’, on the city’s outskirts. At this stage in his career, Mackintosh was in the throes of an innovative phase of creativity: experimenting with new materials, textures and forms, and how these contrasting elements could work coherently within a particular space. The ideas manifested at Hous’hill would inform future furniture designs and interiors, culminating in the commission for the second phase of The Glasgow School of Art in 1910.

Prior to his work on Hous’hill, many of Mackintosh’s interior schemes were white: elegant, white-painted furniture adorned open white spaces which he decorated with flashes of coloured glass or stencilled roses. White interiors were also employed at Hous’hill however in the Blue Bedroom the furniture was typically stained or waxed and served as devices to break up what was a rather ordinary rectangular room. Stylised organic forms and Glasgow rose motifs were used sparingly; photographs and preliminary plans of the bedroom indicate that decoration of this kind was minimal and largely reserved for the stained glass on a few basket lamps which were carefully positioned around the room.

This striking bedside cabinet, one of two produced for the bedroom, is decidedly rigid in form and follows a preference for simple geometric outlines. The elongated rectangular structure is further emphasised by a series of rectangular inlets for storing books and magazines. This effect is enhanced by the fine graining of the timber, which flows upwards in the direction of the exterior panelling. The decoration is relatively restrained and relies on a precise arrangement of cut-out and inlaid squares, some of which have been inset with mother-of-pearl. Mackintosh’s preference for geometric linearity was carefully balanced with the subtle use of a curved stained-glass panel, originally located in the central alcove of the cabinet, but now absent. By staining the cabinet as opposed to painting it white, Mackintosh allows the timber to play a role in its simple decoration. Contrasting textures of glass, brass, mother-of-pearl and the grain of the timbers work in harmony to create an innovative design which evokes an elegant yet restrained level of decoration. Other examples of furniture in the bedroom follow these new ideas to create a visually arresting interior scheme which would dominate some of his later commissions.

The two bedside cabinets were made for the Blue Bedroom by Francis Smith, one of Mackintosh’s regular cabinetmakers. His original designs for the interior show this example standing tall on the left-hand facing side of the bed, closely positioned by the bed for ease of use and with a chair alongside each to balance the room. However, period photographs indicate Miss Cranston opted to position the cabinets slightly further away from the bed than initially intended, and the chairs were moved elsewhere. The other bedside cabinet now resides in a private collection.
£30,000 – £50,000


pencil and watercolour, inscribed, signed and dated lower right IVY SEED/ WALBERSWICK/ 1915/ CRMMMM 22.5cm x 18.2cm
Provenance: Acquired after the Memorial Exhibition, 1933, by R. W. B. Morris, a partner in Charles Macdonald's legal firm and an executor of Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh's estate
The Fine Art Society, London
Private Collection (1977-present)

Exhibited: The Fine Art Society, London, The Flower Drawings of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, May/June 1977
Billcliffe R. Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Art of the Four, Quatro, 2017, pp.194-198 and 211-219
Billcliffe R. Mackintosh Watercolours Glasgow Art Gallery, London 1978, p. 38, no. 139

Note: By 1914, Mackintosh’s professional fortunes were dwindling and life in Glasgow became unbearably oppressive. Following the completion of the Glasgow School of Art in 1909, Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh’s business received very little work, much like their competitors, as the city was grappling with a recession. Mackintosh resigned as partner of the firm in December 1913, supposedly with the intention of setting up his own company, yet sadly nothing came of this. Clearly requiring some rest and recuperation from this drastic turn of events, the Mackintoshes left Glasgow for a summer break to Walberswick in June 1914, but the uncertainty of the First World War and a rather unstable economic climate persuaded them to remain in the village for fifteen months.

Like a number of coastal villages across the UK, Walberswick became a hub of artistic creativity in the summer months. Bright blue skies, endless coastal cliffs and colourful fields as far as the horizon brought the likes of Philip Wilson Steer, E. A. Walton and Mary Newbery Sturrock to this charming fishing and boatyard community. Mary Newbery was the daughter of Frances Newbery, Headmaster of the Glasgow School of Art at the time Mackintosh designed its new premises. The two men had formed a very close friendship during their time in Glasgow. Mary was convalescing in Walberswick while the Mackintoshes were staying in the village, close to her family’s villa there. Every day they would venture over to her studio and it is thought that Mackintosh was encouraged by the Newberys to turn to painting during this time, in his search for solace and seclusion.

Over the next ten months or so, Mackintosh made over forty botanical watercolour studies using a variety of species: from wild plants such as willow catkins and kingcups to garden favourites fuchsias and petunia, as well as flowers from local fields and hedgerows such as sorrel and chicory. From 1901 Mackintosh had been sketching similar plants and flowers whilst on holiday within Britain, and further afield in Italy and Portugal. These earlier studies are more technical in composition; the background is almost completely abstract as alternating and overlapping perspectives of botanical cross-sections are illustrated. The focus of these sketches was analytical: investigating ways in which certain plant forms could be stylised to create abstract patterns on the page.

At Walberswick, the studies are decorative depictions, delicately drawn in a naturalistic manner. It is likely that Mackintosh worked with pressed specimens, perhaps picked on his walks to Sturrock’s studio, giving him an already flattened section to work from. In Ivy Seed, the plant is positioned off-centre as the coloured leaves pointing towards the cartouche draw the eye into the complex structure of the branch itself. Mackintosh was clearly meticulous in his approach: connected stems and foliage are interwoven and overlaid in a beautiful display; there is a careful balance of tension, and delicacy in the delineation of the leaves. The vibrancy of colour, subtly deployed across the page, breathes life into the work and helps capture the decorative beauty of his peaceful new environment.

The initials of Margaret Mackintosh appear frequently on many of these watercolours, and it was previously suggested that she contributed to the studies in some way. However, there is no stylistic evidence that correlates with Margaret’s own watercolour techniques. Mary Newbury Sturrock has stated that her initials merely indicate that she was there when the studies were made, thereby highlighting her constant presence in Charles’ life and art.

Mackintosh’s time spent studying the coastline and nature in and around Walberswick subsequently led to his arrest in 1915 when he was mistaken for a German spy. After a thorough search of their home led to discoveries of their artistic endeavours in Germany and Austria, Charles and Margaret were forced to leave the area with immediate effect. They eventually settled in London, where his deeply personal connections with nature formed the basis for further watercolours and some innovative textile commissions.

The spectacular series of Walberswick studies marks an interesting point in Mackintosh’s career. His intense personal and professional struggles prompted a search for solace in nature: these careful, naturalistic renderings of his surroundings are captivating in their simple beauty, evoking the serenity and contemplation he longed for.

£30,000 – £50,000


pencil and watercolour heightened with white, on tracing paper, signed and inscribed C.R. Mackintosh./2 Hans Studio/43 A Glebe Place Chelsea SW3 lower right, on the backing sheet, overmounted 17.5cm. x 16cm

Provenance: The Fine Art Society, London, 1989
Exhibited: The Fine Art Society, London, 1994 Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style, Travelling Exhibition in Japan, September 2000 – February 2001, p. 137, Cat. No. 140.
Literature: Billcliffe R. Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Textile Designs, San Francisco 1993, p. 84 (‘Ochre, Black and White’) and p. 85 (‘Cyclamen’)
Billcliffe R. Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Art of the Four, Quarto 2017, pp. 219-225, p. 222, pl. 260

Note: In 1916 the Mackintoshes left Walberswick for London where they made their new home in rented lodgings in Chelsea and two adjacent small studios in nearby Glebe Place. The war had ended any idea of Charles setting up an architectural practice either in Glasgow or London, where he lacked the contacts or the money to do so.

The series of wildflower studies that Mackintosh produced at Walberswick suggested a new way forward as an artist. In London, he began a series of cut flower watercolours and textile designs.

The first of these flower paintings to be exhibited, Anemones, appeared at the ISSPG (The International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers) in May 1916. A piece of fabric made from one of his designs can be seen in the background, suggesting he had begun working for the textile roller printers, William Foxton Ltd and William Sefton & Co. before this date.

His early textile designs developed from his later work in Glasgow and from the Viennese designers he had admired before the war. Later, he drew on his intimate knowledge of the natural world, to produce abstracted repeat patterns, as in the current example. A variation of this design also provides the backdrop for Cyclamen, a watercolour of around 1922-23.

By 1920 Mackintosh had built an impressive body of work and had become one of the leading textile designers of the period. His diary entry for this year recorded income of £200 from the sale of designs for voiles, chintzes and handkerchiefs. Despite this relative success, fabric designs did not bring him the recognition he needed to attract further work or commissions as his name would not have been associated with the designs at this time.

In 1916 Mackintosh did however receive a commission from the engineering and toy model manufacturer W.J Bassett-Lowke for his house at 78 Derngate in Northampton, where he was able to use some of his printed textiles. However, apart from this and a small commission for Miss Cranston in Glasgow no other architectural work was forthcoming and painting remained his alternative career until his death in 1928.

£10,000 – £15,000


McLellan Galleries, Glasgow, 4-27th May 1933, printed by Begg Kennedy & Elder Printers, Glasgow

£600 – £800

DESIGN Since 1860

19th Apr, 2023 10:00

Sale number: 732
Location: Live in Edinburgh & Online
Check out Lyon and Turnbull website
Our latest edition of Design Since 1860 takes place in Edinburgh and online and includes an excellent selection of pieces by designers such as C.F.A. Voysey, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Archibald Knox, Peter Waals, Sir Charles Locke Eastlake, Edward Barnsley, William Arthur Smith Benson, E.W. Godwin, Charles Robert Ashbee, Arthur Simpson, Christopher Dresser and Jessie Marion King.