The genius of Charles Rennie Mackintosh

For those growing up, as I did, in Glasgow in the 1980s and ’90s, the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1928) felt omnipresent, a part of the fabric and texture of the city. The stylised rose motif, like a tray of sweet cakes, the impossibly high-backed chairs, and of course the modern typefaces based on his lettering, full of floating ‘o’s, multiplied bars and decorative marks everywhere. The buildings themselves, of which there weren’t many, seemed almost secondary to the iconography, crowned by James Annan’s photograph of that handsome young man and his bohemian flowing necktie and moustache. But for all the fridge magnets, mugs and tea towels, coffee-table books and advertising, what wasn’t clear to me then was how recently the Mackintosh image had been cultivated as part of the general effort to revive the civic pride of a deindustrialised city.

9th June 2018