Frances Macdonald MacNair died in Glasgow on December 12, 1921. She was only forty-nine years old and, according to some testimonies, died of suicide. Her distraught husband, James Herbert MacNair, destroyed as much of the couple’s artwork as he could and never made art again.

The Mackintoshes never returned to work in Glasgow after the First World War. They remained in London, working and making friends with those in the arts scene. After 1916 watercolor became an increasingly important pursuit for Mackintosh, and he exhibited some of these paintings internationally in Detroit and Chicago. The last known work by Margaret dates to 1922.

In 1923 the Mackintoshes made the first of many long visits to the south of France, where Mackintosh almost obsessively painted its landscape. Margaret’s health faltered and Mackintosh fell ill. In 1927 they returned to London, where he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer of the tongue and died on December 10, 1928. Margaret survived him by just four years, dying on January 7, 1933.

In May 1933 the Mackintoshes’ friends and admirers organized a memorial exhibition as a celebration of the couple’s life and work. Fittingly, the exhibition was held at the McLellan Galleries—the new name for the city’s old Corporation Galleries, where The Four had studied alongside their many talented Glasgow Style peers and where the Glasgow Style had been born.

La Mort Parfumée, 1921
Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864–1933)
Pencil, watercolor, gouache, and gold paint on paper
From the collections of The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, GLAHA 41288

This dramatic watercolor La Mort Parfumée (The Perfumed Death) is one of Margaret’s last known paintings. It depicts the climax of the 1913 play La Pisanelle by Gabriele d’Annunzio, in which the heroine Pisa, watched by the Queen of Cyprus, is pushed to her death by seven of her enslaved retinue—she is suffocated under a pile of rose petals. Margaret gives dynamism to the composition through the curvatures of the slaves’ bodies and by the low arc of the single white line, which suggests the force of Pisa’s submersion under the petals.

Grey Iris, ca. 1923
Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1928)
Pencil and watercolor on paper
Glasgow Museums: Bought from the Mackintosh Memorial Exhibition, 1933, 1855

In this watercolor Mackintosh scrutinized the play of light on both flower and ceramic objects. He captured the tonal variations in the high sheen of the glazes of the east-Asian vase and bowl, as well as the patterned Imari-ware jug from Japan. Mackintosh’s studied treatment of the glossy, undulating surfaces of the black iris’s petals reveals shades of grays and purples, inspiring the color reference of the title.

Pinks, ca. 1923
Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1928)
Watercolor on paper
Glasgow Museums: Given by John Sawers, 1941, 2247

“Pinks” is the colloquial name for delicate, small-headed flowers from the Dianthus or carnation family of plants. Mackintosh here studies the variations in their subtle coloring and renders the petals’ jagged edges in painstaking detail. Shades of pink, purple, and red are offset by the pastel blue and green tones of the stems, while a blue drinking glass in the foreground balances the composition.

Port Vendres—La Ville, ca. 1925–26
Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1928)
Pencil and watercolor on paper
Glasgow Museums: Bought from the Mackintosh Memorial Exhibition, 1933, 1856

Mackintosh painted many watercolors of the quayside at Port Vendres, a small French town near the Spanish border on a main shipping route to North Africa. In this work, he captured the irregular arrangement of the local architecture—simple white facades and sloped roofs—countered by the geometric windows on each building. The four-story hotel where he and Margaret frequently stayed appears along the street in the far left; its large projecting awning casts a pronounced black shadow down the front of the building and onto the pavement.

The Village of La Llagonne, ca. 1925–26
Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1928)
Watercolor on paper
Glasgow Museums: Bought 1960, PR.1960.24

Over a four-year period in the mid-1920s, the Mackintoshes stayed at several small towns in the south of France. Charles painted watercolor landscapes of the places they visited, typically sitting on a three-legged stool, propping his watercolor board across on his knees. To ensure consistency of light, he painted from the same spot at the same time of day. This view of the village of La Llagonne is an imaginative composition rather than a true recording of the physical landscape. Mackintosh repositioned landscape features and moved buildings closer together to create a more dramatic perspective.

Please consider supporting the Frist Art Museum with a donation. Your gift is essential to our mission of serving the community through the arts and art access in particular. We truly appreciate your generosity.