Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a Scottish architect, water colourist and artist. His artistic approach had much in common with European Symbolism, his work, alongside that of his wife Margaret Macdonald, was influential on European design movements such as Art Nouveau and Secessionism and praised by great modernists such as Josef Hoffmann. Mackintosh was died in London. Charles Rennie Mackintosh was born at 70 Parson Street, Glasgow, on 7 June 1868, the fourth of eleven children and second son of William McIntosh, a superintendent and chief clerk of the City of Glasgow Police, his wife, Margaret Rennie. Mackintosh grew up in the Townhead and Dennistoun areas of Glasgow, he attended Reid's Public School and the Allan Glen's Institution. In 1890 Mackintosh was the second winner of the Alexander Thomson Travelling Studentship, set up for the "furtherance of the study of ancient classic architecture, with special reference to the principles illustrated in Mr. Thomson's works." He changed the spelling of his name from'McIntosh' to'Mackintosh' for unknown reasons, as his father did before him, around 1893.
Confusion continues to surround the use of his name with'Rennie' sometimes incorrectly substituted for his first name of'Charles'. The modern use of'Rennie Mackintosh' as a surname is incorrect and he was never known as such in his lifetime. Signatures took various forms including'C. R. Mackintosh' and'Chas. R. Mackintosh.' The usage of "Rennie Mackintosh" to refer to him is therefore incorrect and he should instead be referred to as "Charles Rennie Mackintosh" or "Mackintosh". He worked with the Honeyman & Keppie architectural practice where he started his first major architectural project, the Glasgow Herald Building, in 1899, he was engaged to marry Jessie Keppie. Around 1892, Mackintosh met fellow artist Margaret Macdonald at the Glasgow School of Art, he and fellow student Herbert MacNair an apprentice at Honeyman and Keppie, were introduced to Margaret and her sister Frances MacDonald by the head of the Glasgow School of Art, Francis Henry Newbery, who saw similarities in their work. Margaret and Charles married on 22 August 1900.
The couple had no children. MacNair and Frances married the previous year; the group worked collaboratively and came to be known as "The Four", were prominent figures in Glasgow Style art and design. In 1904, after he had completed several successful building designs, Mackintosh became a partner in Honeyman & Keppie, the company became Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh; when economic hardships were causing many architectural practices to close, in 1913, he resigned from the partnership and attempted to open his own practice. Mackintosh lived most of his life in the city of Glasgow, located on the banks of the River Clyde. During the Industrial Revolution the city had one of the greatest production centres of heavy engineering and shipbuilding in the world; as the city grew and prospered, a faster response to the high demand for consumer goods and arts was necessary. Industrialized, mass-produced items started to gain popularity. Along with the Industrial Revolution, Asian style and emerging modernist ideas influenced Mackintosh's designs.
When the Japanese isolationist regime softened, they opened themselves to globalisation resulting in notable Japanese influence around the world. Glasgow's link with the eastern country became close with shipyards at the River Clyde being exposed to Japanese navy and training engineers. Japanese design 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; this style was admired by Mackintosh because of its restraint and economy of means rather than ostentatious accumulation. In the old western style, furniture was seen as ornament. In the Japanese arts furniture and design focused on the quality of the space, meant to evoke a calming and organic feeling to the interior. At the same time a new philosophy concerned with creating functional and practical design was emerging throughout Europe: the so-called "modernist ideas".
The main concept of the Modernist movement was to develop innovative ideas and new technology: design was concerned with the present and the future, rather than with history and tradition. Heavy ornamentation and inherited styles were discarded. Though Mackintosh became known as the ‘pioneer’ of the movement, his designs were far removed from the bleak utilitarianism of Modernism, his concern was to build around the needs of people: people seen, not as masses, but as individuals who needed not a machine for living in but a work of art. Mackintosh took his inspiration from his Scottish upbringing and blended them with the flourish of Art Nouveau and the simplicity of Japanese forms. 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, along with some references to traditional Scottish architecture; the project that helped make his international reputation was the Glasgow School of Art.
During the early stages of the Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh completed th
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