Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Born in Glasgow, the son of a police superintendent, he trained with John Hutchison, 1884, and attended architecture and modelling classes at GSA , winning a prize for modelling and the Alexander Thomson Travelling Scholarship, 1890.

He joined Honeyman & Keppie as a draughtsman in 1888, becoming a partner from 1904-13.

Mackintosh's first important commission was for the monument to Alexander McCall in Glasgow's Necropolis, an Iona Cross carved by J & G Mossman , with a bronze portrait panel by James Pittendrigh Macgillivray (1888).

He later collaborated with his wife, Margaret MacDonald (1860-1933), on repoussé and gesso panels, as well as the models for the sculptural details on his buildings.

His designs for architectural sculpture, however, were often left unexecuted due to cost cutting, as was the case with the Daily Record Printing Works, 20-28 Renfield Lane (1900) and Hill House, Helensburgh (1903).

Mackintosh buildings with sculpture include:

Queen Margaret's College, which has heads and carver work over its door by McGilvray & Ferris (1894, later BBC Scotland); Queen's Cross Church, Garscube Road, Glasgow, which has carver work by Holmes & Jackson (1896-9); Glasgow School of Art, which has a figurative cartouche above its door symbolizing The Tree of Knowledge or Fine Art and Design, by Holmes & Jackson (1899); T & R Annan's Showroom, 518 Sauchiehall Street, for which Richard Ferris carved statues of the Delphic Sybil and the Prophet Isaiah, after Michelangelo's frescos in the Sistine Chapel (1904); and Scotland Street School, 225 Scotland Street (1904-6), in which Mackintosh explored geometric shapes and patterns which were to reappear regularly in his designs for clocks, furniture, textiles and interiors, and which would culminate in the decor for 78 Derngate, in Northampton (1917).

At Glasgow School Of Art, Mackintosh's original plans for an elaborate and multi-figure sculpture scheme, including seated figures across the south front and statues of Michelangelo and other artists on the library facade, together with much decorative carving, was abandoned on grounds of cost, leaving empty niches and uncarved cylinders and blocks of rough-hewn stone on the library to indicate where the sculpture should be.

However, the necessity for practical features in wrought iron such as railings and gates also provided an outlet for his sculptural imagination and the opportunity to have his designs produced, with plant forms, insects, birds and the regeneration of nature and the human spirit as recurrent symbolic themes.

The ironwork on GSA was cast by George Adam & Son, who also produced the ironwork for Mackintosh's other buildings.

In the early 1900s, when his architectural career was at its height, he briefly revisited the genre which had originally made his name, designing the memorial to Rev. Alexander Orrock Johnston in MacDuff Cemetery, East Wemyss, which was carved by McGilvray & Ferris (1905).

After a disastrous attempt to pursue an independent practice in London during the First World War, he settled in Port Vendres, France, as a painter, but returned to London when he was diagnosed with cancer.

He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, London. A photograph of his name-plaque is featured on the website (Record 203).

Mackintosh has since become Glasgow's most celebrated designer.


  • Who's Who In Glasgow-1909 [Mackintosh], p. 124, [Honeyman], p. 91, [Keppie], p. 107;
  • Gray ;
  • Blench et al. ;
  • McKenzie (1999) ;
  • Howarth (1952, rev. 1977);
  • Gifford (1988), p. 204;
Works in our Database:
1: Bellahouston Park (Bellahouston),
House for an Art Lover (Competition design of 1901)
Tree of Life (1990-6)
Designer and Architect: CR Mackintosh; Carver: J Kennedy;
Modern Realisation by GD Lodge & Partners (main consultant A McMillan);
Working drawings prepared by G Robinson
2: Queen Margaret Drive (West End),
Former Northpark House - Mackintosh extension,
now BBC Scotland, 20 Queen Margaret Drive
Five Masks and an Iron Finial (1894-5)
Sculptors: McGilvray & Ferris (Masks), George Adam & Son (Iron Finial);
Architects: JT Rochead (oriiginal building), CR Mackintosh (extension)
3: Renfrew Street (Garnethill),
Glasgow School of Art, 167 Renfrew Street
Iron Screen and Gate (c.1909)
Architect/Designer: CR Mackintosh; Fabricators: George Adam & Son
4: Renfrew Street (Garnethill),
Glasgow School of Art, 167 Renfrew Street
Keystone Relief (1899)
Modeller: CR Mackintosh; Carvers: Holmes & Jackson; Architect/Designer: CR Mackintosh
5: Renfrew Street (Garnethill),
Glasgow School of Art, 167 Renfrew Street
Pair of Finials (c.1898)
Architect/Designer: CR Mackintosh; Fabricators: George Adam & Son
6: Renfrew Street (Garnethill),
Glasgow School of Art, 167 Renfrew Street
Stanchions and Entrance Lamp (1899, 1909)
Architect/Designer: CR Mackintosh; Fabricators: George Adam & Son
7: Renfrew Street (Garnethill),
Glasgow School of Art, 167 Renfrew Street
Window Brackets (1899, 1909)
Architect/Designer: CR Mackintosh; Fabricators: George Adam & Son
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