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Curator’s Perspective: The Acme of Originality

Presented by Frist Art Museum at ONLINE, Nashville TN

Jun 11 2021
Curator’s Perspective: The Acme of Originality

Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Cutting-Edge Tearoom Designs

Over a 21-year period, between 1896 and 1917, the architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh created some of his most imaginative interiors and decorative schemes for Catherine Cranston’s four tearooms in central Glasgow. These commissions provided him with crucial opportunities to experiment with an increasingly sophisticated approach to interiors, furniture, and fittings, from mysterious murals inspired by Art Nouveau and Japan and iconic high-backed chairs to atmospheric dining spaces with palettes ranging from white-and-silver to warm stained wood, along with Chinese-influenced designs and boldly colorful geometry that anticipated the rhythm of Art Deco. His most three-dimensionally conceptual suite, for the Willow Tearooms (1903), achieved a new level of fashioning an interior as a total work of art. This illustrated talk presents Mackintosh’s unique collaborations with Catherine Cranston through archive and object photographs, with behind-the-scenes insights from Glasgow Museums’ conservation, reassembly, and restoration of some of his surviving tearoom interiors from Ingram Street.

Alison Brown has worked for Glasgow Museums since 1993. Her particular focus is on the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Glasgow Style, art education, and decorative art and design from the 1860s through the 1950s. She curated the exhibition Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Making the Glasgow Style, which marked the 150th anniversary of Mackintosh’s birth in 2018 with an inaugural showing at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and subsequent presentation at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, England. She then adapted it into Designing the New, the exhibition that will be on view in Nashville through September 12. Brown has contributed articles and essays to numerous books and journals, including The Flower and the Green Leaf: Glasgow School of Art in the Time of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (2009), Glasgow’s Hidden Treasure: Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Ingram Street Tearooms (2004), and the catalogue for Designing the New (available in FAM’s gift shop). She is vice chair of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society and editor of its journal.

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