From 1895 onward The Four’s network widened across Europe as they participated in exhibitions and design competitions and received new commissions. International journals reviewed and published their art, further spreading their influence and reputation.

From 1898 German decorative arts and design journals gave Mackintosh important opportunities, such as his well-received submission to the Haus eines Kunstfreundes (House for an Art Lover) competition organized by German periodical Innendekoration (Interior Decoration). Although Mackintosh did not win, his designs were published in Germany as a portfolio of prints in 1902 and subsequently exhibited further afield, including in America.

Three exhibitions were particularly significant in raising Mackintosh’s and the Glasgow Style’s international profile. First, in 1900 the Mackintoshes and MacNairs accepted an invitation to be part of the Eighth Exhibition of the Vienna Secession in Austria. Second, after their participation in the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901, Russian architect Fyodor Shekhtel asked Mackintosh to exhibit in Moscow the following year, while the best of the Glasgow Style from the 1901 Exhibition traveled to Budapest, Hungary, for display. Last, in 1902 the key figures of the Glasgow Style presented work in one of the three rooms designed by Mackintosh for the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art in Turin, Italy. The Scottish Section included two room installations by The Four: The Rose Boudoir by the Mackintoshes, and a Ladies’ Writing Room by the MacNairs. In Turin Fritz Waerndorfer, an Austrian textile manufacturer, met Mackintosh to discuss the commission of a luxurious music room for his home in Vienna, a project the Mackintoshes would work on until 1906.

Title page for the portfolio Meister der Innen-Kunst, 1901–2
Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1928), 1901
Published by Alexander Koch, Darmstadt, Germany, 1902
Lithographic ink print on paper
From the collections of The Glasgow School of Art, Given by the artist in 1908, MC/G/22A

Music Room with Piano and Fireplace, 1901
Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1928)
Uncredited design contribution from Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864–1933), 1901
Plate 9 of Haus eines Kunstfreundes
Published by Alexander Koch, Darmstadt, Germany, 1902
Lithographic ink print on paper
From the collections of The Glasgow School of Art, MC/G/31B

The competition for a Haus eines Kunstfreundes (House for an Art Lover) of 1900–1901 called for designs that would be aesthetically and technically modern. Submissions were to outline sites, room types and sizes, materials, and budget. The contest’s parameters also encouraged architects and decorative artists “of modern tastes [to] develop and submit the design jointly.” Mackintosh entered striking designs that clearly show Margaret’s involvement. In the white-painted music room, for instance, large Spook School female figures flank the piano, while small leaded glass panels above the fireplace reflect her decorative interventions.

Mackintosh’s proposal did not win a prize because his submission was incomplete, but in recognition of its merit German publisher Alexander Koch paid the artist six hundred marks to produce the complete set of drawings as a portfolio of fourteen prints. Mackintosh presented a portfolio of the prints to The Glasgow School of Art in 1908.

Small circular table with square projecting shelf, 1902
Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1928)
Maker unknown
Painted oak
From the collections of The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, GLAHA 41219

In the winter of 1902–3, Mackintosh showed this side table in The Architecture & Artistic Crafts of the New Style, an exhibition in Moscow, Russia. It was part of a room display that included framed watercolors by his wife, Margaret, and was one of the few non-Russian exhibits. The table’s four thin-bladed legs branch upward and outward into taut organic and carved lines to hold the lower square shelf and the circular top high. The table demonstrates how Mackintosh applied stylized plant forms to furniture.

Detail drawing for jewelry ornaments for the gesso frieze The Return of Prince Marcellus, Waerndorfer Music Room, Vienna, Austria, ca. 1902–6
Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1928)
Pencil and watercolor on paper
From the collections of The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, GLAHA 41944

After meeting Mackintosh in Glasgow in June 1900, the Austrian businessman and art patron Fritz Waerndorfer described the architect’s work as “phenomenally interesting” in a telegram to Josef Hoffmann (1870–1956), one of the leading proponents of Art Nouveau in Vienna, Austria. The meeting led to Waerndorfer commissioning Mackintosh, together with Margaret, to create a luxurious, white-painted music room for his home in Vienna between 1902 and 1906. The figurative focal points of the room decoration were two nearly twenty-foot-long friezes, inspired by scenes from the Belgian play The Seven Princesses, a variation on the traditional Sleeping Beauty story. This drawing outlines life-size designs for jewelry worn by some of those figures.

The May Queen, 1900
Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864–1933)
Made for the Ladies’ Luncheon Room, Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street Tearooms, Glasgow
Gesso on burlap (hessian) over a wood frame, scrim, twine, glass beads, thread, and tin leaf
Glasgow Museums: Acquired by Glasgow Corporation as part of the Ingram Street Tearooms, 1950, E.1981.178.1–3

This gesso frieze by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh culminates The Four’s development of the stylized female figure through the 1890s. Intended to be seen from below, the work is almost crude in its construction, like a piece from a theatrical stage set: rough burlap stretched over a wooden frame provides the support, while painted string pinned into the applied gesso created the dark lines. The May Queen and its partner panel, Mackintosh’s The Wassail, were the couple’s first attempt to work in gesso (a fine plaster). Both panels were exhibited at the Eighth Exhibition of the Vienna Secession at the end of 1900, before being installed in the Ladies’ Luncheon Room at Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street Tearooms, where they provided the colorful, figurative elements of Mackintosh’s harmonious white-painted interior.

Exploring the making of The May Queen
iPad presentation © Culture and Sport Glasgow (Museums), 2019

This digital slideshow provides an up-close look at how The May Queen was made and explores its painterly finish and handmade qualities, including the artist’s use of loose-weave burlap, roughly applied gesso (a fine plaster), glass beads, metallic leaf, and molded paper. Some of the modeled plaster shapes bear fingerprints where they have been pinched and pressed into the panel’s surface. The outlines of the figures, trees, and plant forms are “drawn” with brown-painted string of different thicknesses held fast with long steel pins.

Running time: approximately 2 minutes

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