I’ve an uneasy feeling about this post because I think I’m about to write something heretical.
You see, in my last couple of posts about the architectural joys of Glasgow City Centre I’ve skipped the mention of one name in particular. Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
I make the comparison to Barcelona’s most famous designer because both he and Mackintosh were working at the same time in that style that variously became known as Art Nouveau, Modernisme, Stile Liberty, Jugendstil and more, including of course “Glasgow Style” where Mackintosh is concerned.
Like Gaudí his work extended into furniture and other decorative elements as well as buildings, and many of his designs can be seen at the Kelvingrove Museum, together with work by his wife Margaret MacDonald and her sister Frances, and this is perhaps where I confess to my reservations. Though overshadowed by the name of Mackintosh, I found the MacDonalds to be the greater artists. Mackintosh was far from being the only Art Nouveau architect operating either – William Reid’s pub design here at The Griffin being a good example.
Perhaps it’s because of Mackintosh’s success. His designs, or similar work inspired by him, have found themselves applied to all manner of objects in the years following his death, to the point where they have become commonplace. A visit to the Willow Tea Rooms, with its gift shop downstairs, confirms that commodification with all manner of items to please the visitor looking for a Mackintosh souvenir of their visit.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike his work, I just find that it doesn’t move me. It’s a little receiving a sweet when you might prefer some umami. A little like the French toast I ate in the tearoom.