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William Sinclair Manson

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Famous Scots. / Writings · 9 May 2022

Famous Scots. Charles Rennie MacKintosh.

Arguably Scotland’s most famous architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was known to control every aspect of an architectural project, from light fittings to clocks and cutlery. The Hill House in Helensburgh has been restored by the Trust to look exactly as it did in 1904. It is a masterful mixture of Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau, with Japanese touches, showing how Mackintosh and his wife, artist Margaret Macdonald, could bring all kinds of styles together in perfect harmony.

5b360 Charles Rennie Mackintosh By James Craig Annan 1893 National Portrait Gallery London

Mackintosh and the Hill House

The architecture and designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh are loved throughout the world, and the Hill House is celebrated as his ‘domestic masterpiece’. Before you visit, here’s a brief history of ‘Toshie’ and this iconic property.

Mackintosh’s early life and career

Born in Glasgow on 7 June 1868, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was one of eleven children. All of his brothers either died in infancy or left to live overseas, so Charles grew up alongside his five sisters as the only boy in his family. Even as a student and young adult, he would spend most of his time around women. His close-knit group of friends at art school, known as ‘The Immortals’, were almost entirely female. One of these artists, Margaret Macdonald, would marry Charles in 1900.

Charles was born with club foot that left him with a limp for the rest of his life. As a boy he was self-conscious and sometimes hot-tempered; he often spent whole days drawing flowers and vegetables on his father’s allotment, which he thought of as the ‘Garden of Eden’. The family home was always filled with flowers, especially roses. It’s clear from the iconic rose motif used throughout the Hill House that Charles was greatly inspired by nature.

Mackintosh enrolled at Glasgow School of Art at the age of 15, at his father’s suggestion. He then joined the architectural practice of Honeyman & Keppie as a draughtsman six years later. During his first private commission the clients were so horrified by the initial designs that Mackintosh had to draw up a second, duller set that would be more acceptable. As a parting ‘gift’, he had all of the house’s interior doors painted in the brightest colours he could find.

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