The Glasgow School

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The Breathtaking Work of Margaret, Frances, Herbert and Charles

The Glasgow School style was most popular from the late 1890s until approximately 1902, although there are paintings and other work that date well past that. The movement developed as a result of designers’ desire to find new forms of expression to address the changing social climate of the late 19th century. This all-encompassing change was affecting all areas of life and was evident in everything from technological advances to transformations in cultural conditions. Inspirations for the Glasgow School style were found in traditional Celtic ornament and new rectilinear architectural design trends. The style also garnered direction from the idea of abstract and reductive drawing, which was a rejection of the extreme flourishings and motifs found in the popular Art Nouveau style of the time.

The Glasgow School

Although the work mirrored the delicate elegance of Art Nouveau, the artists of The Glasgow School favoured a more functional style. The work (especially that of Charles Rennie Mackintosh) was clearly influenced by the rustic Arts and Crafts style celebrated in Britain during the 19th century. The Glasgow School expertly married the harmony and stability of the Arts and Crafts style with the whimsical embellishment of the Art Nouveau movement, creating a unique ethereal balance of strength and beauty.

The so-called “Glasgow” style was exhibited in Europe and influenced the Viennese Art Nouveau movement known as Sezessionstil (in English, the Vienna Secession) around 1900.

The Artists/Designers

Charles Rennie Mackintosh, J. Herbert McNair, Margaret Macdonald and Frances Macdonald were the designers at the fore-front of the Glasgow School style. They were Christened The Four because they were the four talented creatives that collaborated together at the Glasgow School of Art and whose work is now synonymous with the style. As a design team, they also had a unique bond as the Macdonald women were sisters who each married one of the other two designers in the group. Frances married (James) Herbert McNair in 1899 and Margaret married Charles in 1900.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 7 June 1868 – 10 December 1928

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Architect

Designer (Furniture)

Designer (Graphics)

Painter & Water Colourist

was a Scottish architect, designer, water colourist and artist Japanese design became more accessible and gained great popularity. In fact, it became so popular and so incessantly appropriated and reproduced by Western artists, that the Western World’s fascination and preoccupation with Japanese art gave rise to the new term, Japonism or Japonisme. The main concept of the Modernist movement was to develop innovative ideas and new technology: design concerned with the present and the future, rather than with history and tradition. Heavy ornamentation and inherited styles were discarded. Even though Mackintosh became known as the ‘pioneer’ of the movement, his designs were far removed from the bleak utilitarianism of Modernism. While working in architecture, Charles Rennie Mackintosh developed his own style: a contrast between strong right angles and floral-inspired decorative motifs with subtle curves, e.g. the Mackintosh Rose motif, along with some references to traditional Scottish architecture. Mackintosh’s architectural career was a relatively short one, but of significant quality and impact. ackintosh also worked in interior design, furniture, textiles and metalwork. Much of this work combines Mackintosh’s own designs with those of his wife, whose flowing, floral style complemented his more formal, rectilinear work. At a public lecture on architecture in 1893, Mackintosh argued that architects and designers be given greater artistic freedom and independence. He himself began to experiment with a range of decorative forms, producing designs for furniture, metalwork and the graphic arts (including highly stylised posters and watercolours), often in partnership with his friend and colleague at Honeyman and Keppie, Herbert MacNair and two fellow students, Margaret and Frances Macdonald.

This style was admired by Mackintosh because of: its restraint and economy of means rather than ostentatious accumulation; its simple forms and natural materials rather than elaboration and artifice; the use of texture and light and shadow rather than pattern and ornament.

http://www.crmsociety.com/crmackintosh.aspx

https://www.architecture.com/Explore/ExhibitionsandEvents/Mackintosh/Explore/Biography.aspx

http://www.scotcities.com/mackintosh/

http://design.designmuseum.org/design/charles-rennie-mackintosh

Margaret Macdonald

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J. Herbert McNair

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Frances Macdonald

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The Glasgow School Style – Design Elements:

Balance/Stability

The Glasgow School Style is very balanced. The style is known for using vertical mirroring in its composition which gives an immediate impression of equilibrium. In addition, the geometric quality of the work (predominantly elongated vertical lines and rectangles), the centering of important elements and soft harmonious colours add to a this feeling of stability.

Line

The lines of this design style are one of its most distinguishing features. The lines are tend to be elongated vertically and are an interesting blend of perfect right angles and fluid curves. The segments themselves also vary in weight from delicate to bold.

Texture

The compositions in the Glasgow School Style have a very soft hand rendered feel to them. Even in the famous Glasgow Institute poster (McNair, F. Macdonald, M. Macdonald), where there is a darker hue and a somewhat rigid geometric symmetry, the fluid curves and accompanying softer colours still create a feeling of softness. The female forms incorporated into many of the designs continue this feeling as their accompaniment to the aforementioned elements give the compositions a feminine quality.

Space

Part of the philosophy of the Glasgow School Style is a departure from overdone embellishments in favour of a more functional style. Although the style is still predominately comprised of active space, there is a common use of large geometric shapes formed of negative space in some designs.

Size

The Glasgow School Style was applied to everything from books to posters during its peak. The proportion of the elements on these applications varies. Some of the elements are extremely small and detailed, such as flower motifs, while others are much larger, such as the large geometric negative space elements.

Typefaces

Next to the vertical elongation and geometric organization of this design style, the hand rendered text is probably its most distinguishing feature. Both serif and san serif fonts are used and there is often a distinguishing horizontal (occasionally vertical) elongation of some characters’ arms/strokes. In some cases this segment elongation acts as an underlining effect. The lettering is also seems to be rendered exclusively in uppercase.

As the type faces are hand rendered, there is great room for artistic freedom. Many typographic rules are broken, such as randomly elongated strokes on characters, variations of the same letter within the same composition, variances in spacing/leading, segmentation of characters and varying weight/height of letters. There is even an example where a vertical line has been separated in order to place two stories of font right next to one story of font which reaches the same height. Even with all of these irregularities however, the strict horizontal planes used for the alignment of the letting in the Glasgow, maintain the style’s feeling of stability.

Signature Visual Elements

Female forms and other feminine motifs such as flowers.
Vertical elongation of compositions.
Harmonious though contrasting hues and colour saturation.
Hand rendered, non-uniform, horizontally aligned lettering.
Geometric overtones.
Abstract representations of elements.

Typical Colour Palette/Saturation

The typical colour palette of the Glasgow School is a blend of soft airy hues with contrasting dark elements. The saturation of the colours varied in correlation to the contrast of the colours, i.e., the darker ones were highly saturated and the lighter ones not.

Image Credits
Charles Rennie Mackintosh – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Rennie_Mackintosh

References
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Rennie_Mackintosh

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February 20, 2015

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