While a young architectural apprentice, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the son of a Glasgow policeman, attended evening classes at the Glasgow School of Art, where he met Herbert MacNair, Frances Macdonald, and her sister Margaret Macdonald (who would later become Mackintosh's wife). Together they formed "The Four," producing watercolors, poster designs, and small decorative objects that were published in "The Studio." In 1889 Mackintosh was hired as a draftsman at the architectural firm of Honeyman and Keppie, where he would remain until 1914. It was there that he developed a unique design idiom based on the forms and materials of traditional Scottish architecture. Mackintosh undertook all aspects of a design commission, providing every element, from an architectural setting to small decorative objects and textiles. His best-known commissions include a building for the Glasgow School of Art (built in two phases, 1897–99 and 1907–09) and Hill House (1902–04), the Walter Blackie residence in the Glasgow suburb of Helensburgh.
Perhaps frustrated by a lack of success at Honeyman and Keppie, Mackintosh left Glasgow in 1914, and by 1920 he had completely abandoned his architectural career. He increasingly turned to watercolor, a medium he continued to explore until his death.
Mackintosh designed this washstand as part of the furnishings for the Blue Bedroom in Hous'hill, an eighteenth-century residence in a suburb of Glasgow he remodeled for Kate Cranston (Mrs. Cochrane) and her husband. Miss Cranston, one of Mackintosh's most important clients, was the proprietress of a group of highly successful tearooms in Glasgow, many of which she had Mackintosh design. With its uncompromising shape and brilliant abstract panel of glass, the washstand shows the architect/designer at the height of his creative powers.
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Major and Mrs. John Cochrane (Kate Cranston), Hous'hill, Nitshill, Glasgow (1904–his d. 1917); Kate Cranston, Hous'hill, Nitshill, Glasgow (1917–ca. 1920); Edward Arthur Gamble, Hous'hill, Nitshill and Pollokshields, Glasgow (ca. 1920–33; sale, J. & R. Edmiston, Glasgow, May 13, 1933, sold for £6 to Bain); Theodore and Audrey Bain, Glasgow and Vancouver (1933–94; sale, Sotheby's, London, April 22, 1994, no. 224, sold to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Charles Rennie Mackintosh," November 19, 1996–February 16, 1997, no. 122.
Art Institute of Chicago. "Charles Rennie Mackintosh," March 29–June 22, 1997, no. 122.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Charles Rennie Mackintosh," August 3–October 12, 1997, no. 122.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Century of Design, Part I: 1900–1925," December 14, 1999–March 26, 2000, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Significant Objects," November 26, 2002–May 2, 2004, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Curator's Eye: J. Stewart Johnson, 1990–2004," March 1–November 6, 2005, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Modern Design: Selections from the Collection," May 30–October 5, 2008, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009, online catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Highlights from the Modern Design Collection: 1900 to the Present," June 23, 2009–May 1, 2011, no catalogue.
Rita Reif. "Antiques View: When Architects Design Furniture." New York Times (September 25, 1983), p. H30.
Rita Reif. "Auctions." New York Times (September 14, 1984), p. C24.
J. Stewart Johnson in "Recent Acquisitions. A Selection: 1993–1994." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 52 (Fall 1994), p. 62, ill. (color).
Rita Reif. "A Washstand With a Tale to Tell." New York Times (July 24, 1994), p. H35, ill.
Barbara Burn, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. 2nd rev. ed. (1st ed., 1983). New York, 1994, p. 464, no. 58, ill. (color).
Pat Kirkham inCharles Rennie Mackintosh. Ed. Wendy Kaplan. Exh. cat., Glasgow Museums, McLellan Galleries. New York, 1996, pp. 244–45, 359, no. 122, colorpl. 156.
Roger Billcliffe. "Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Furniture." Magazine Antiques 101 (October 1996), p. 504, colorpl. X and ill. p. 484 (color detail).
David Masello. "Design: The Grid, the Curve, and the Tower." Art News 96 (September 1997), ill. p. 90 (color).
Grace Glueck. "When They Said No to Frills." New York Times (December 17, 1999), pp. E41, E46, ill.
Roger Billcliffe. Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings & Interior Designs. Rev. ed. (1st ed., 1979). New York, 2010, p. 210, no. 1904.77, ill. (color), fig. 1904.K (installation photo, Blue Bedroom, Hous'hill).
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