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Born in Glasgow, the second son in a family of eleven children, his father was a superintendent of police. From an early age he was interested in a career as an architect, and when he was sixteen he was articled in the office of the Glasgow architect John Hutchison, studying at the same time as an evening student at the Glasgow School of Art. Here he came into contact with J. Herbert MacNair and the Macdonald sisters, Frcnces and Margaret (wham he loter married), with whom he was to form the group which became known as the Glasgow Four. They exhibited together on a number of occasions; the work shown at the 1896 Arts and Crafts Exhibition was greeted with incomprehension and distaste.
Meanwhile, in 1889, Mackintosh had joined the firm of Honeyman & Keppie, where he remained until 1913, becoming a partner in 1904. All his most important architectural and decorative work was done during this period, and it is clear that he was allowed a degree of autonomy within the firm, developing his own markedly individual style in a way that is not usually possible for a man without his own independent practice. In 1896 Mackintosh, in his capacity as an assistant at Honeyman & Keppie, won the competition for the building of the new School of Art in Glosgow.
From 1897 until 1906 he was occupied intermittently with designing and furnishing the chain of tea-rooms established in Glasgow by the Misses Cranston as part of a campaign to combat the widespread daytime drunkenness which was a scandal in the city. In spite of the provision of billiard rooms, the original and elegant schemes seem to have done very little to wean the hardened drinkers from their accustomed haunts, but they allowed Mackintosh to experiment with the possibilities of commercial production on a considerable scale. He exhibited, with the other members of the group of the 'Four', a number of times with the Wiener Werkstatte, and found grecter acceptance of his idess on the Continent than in his home town or in London, though he had patrons in Scotland who allowed him a remarkable degree of freedom to pursue his ideas, notubly the publisher, Walter Blackie, for whom he built Hill House at Helensburgh. After he left Scotland in 1913 he did very little more work, and in 1920 he gave up architecture and devoted the remainder of his life to painting. [Architect-Designers from Pugin to Mackintosh]
Architect-Designers from Pugin to Mackintosh. Exhibition catalogue. London: The Fine Art Society with Haslam & Whiteway Ltd., 1981.
Last modified December 1999