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The Re-making of Charles Rennie Mackintosh: A Study of the 1933 Memorial Exhibition

  • Alborz Dianat

Abstract

This article examines the posthumous interpretation of Charles Rennie Mackintosh as a pioneer of the Modern movement using the 1933 Mackintosh memorial exhibition as a case study. The exhibition, held at the McLellan Galleries, Glasgow, was a major event in the re-popularisation of Mackintosh following his death in 1928. Using archival material only recently made available, the article focuses on the actions of the architectural critic Philip Morton Shand, Britain's highly influential ambassador for the Modern movement in the interwar period. Shand identified Mackintosh as the sole link in a linear history of the movement leading back to its putative origins in Britain. Attempting to intervene in the exhibition, Shand clashed with its organiser, William Davidson — a close friend and patron of Mackintosh. The correspondence between Shand and Davidson reveals new aspects of the Mackintosh historiography in the development of the British Modern movement.

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1 Helland, Janice, The Studios of Frances and Margaret Macdonald (Manchester, 1996); Neat, Timothy and McDermott, Gillian, Closing the Circle: Thomas Howarth, Mackintosh and the Modern Movement (Aberdour, 2002); Robertson, Pamela, The Chronycle: The Letters of Charles Rennie Mackintosh to Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (Glasgow, 2001); Crawford, Alan, ‘The Mackintosh Phenomenon’, in Charles Rennie Mackintosh, ed. Kaplan, Wendy (Glasgow, 1996), pp. 320–46.

2 Darling, Elizabeth, ‘Institutionalizing English Modernism 1924–33: From the Vers Group to MARS’, Architectural History, 55 (2012), pp. 299320; Gold, John R., ‘“A Very Serious Responsibility”? The MARS Group, Internationally and Relations with CIAM, 1933–39’, Architectural History, 56 (2013), pp. 249–75; Windsor, Alan, ‘Letters from Peter Behrens to P. Morton Shand, 1932–1938’, Architectural History, 37 (1994), pp. 165–87.

3 Janet McKenzie Spens, pers. comm., 2017, and Elizabeth Whittam, pers. comm., 2017.

4 ‘William Davidson’, Mackintosh Architecture, at mackintosh-architecture.gla.ac.uk/catalogue/name/?nid=DavidWm (accessed on 13 January 2019).

5 Crawford, Alan, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (London, 2002), p. 193.

6 Schwabe, Randolph, The Diaries of Randolph Schwabe, ed. Clarke, Gill (Bristol, 2016), p. 124. Also see letter from Desmond Chapman-Huston to Archibald Macdonald, 12 January 1933, Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow [hereafter HMAG], GLAHA 52426.

7 ‘Architect with World Influence: Memorial Exhibition?’, Glasgow Evening News, 14 February 1933, unpaginated, University of Glasgow Special Collections [hereafter UGSC], MS Gen 1654.

8 ‘Mr C. R. Mackintosh: Pioneer of Modernist Architecture’, Times, 13 December 1928, p. 16.

9 Chapman-Huston, Desmond, ‘Charles Rennie Mackintosh’, Artwork, 6 (1930), p. 30.

10 Crawford, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, p. 193.

11 ‘Architect with World Influence’.

12 Schwabe, Diaries, p. 130.

13 ‘Architect Genius Memorial’, Glasgow Evening News, 17 February 1933, unpaginated, UGSC, MS Gen 1654.

14 ‘A Great Scots Architect’ (unidentified news clipping), 12 March 1933, unpaginated, UGSC, MS Gen 1654.

15 ‘Memorial to Modernist’, Glasgow Evening Times, 20 March 1933, unpaginated, UGSC, MS Gen 1654.

16 Application for the Barber chair of fine arts at the University of Birmingham, 1934, University of Dundee Archives [hereafter UDA], uncatalogued.

17 Melvin, Jeremy, FRS Yorke and the Evolution of English Modernism (Chichester, 2003), p. 29.

18 P. Morton Shand, ‘The Exhibition of Decorative Art in Paris’, Architectural Association Journal (July 1925), pp. 30–32.

19 Housden, Brian, ‘Dr Bowdler and the “New Vision”’, Architectural Association Journal, 73–74 (January 1959), pp. 134–35.

20 Sharp, Dennis, Sources of Modern Architecture: A Critical Bibliography (Chatham, 1981), p. 117.

21 Shand, P. Morton, ‘Scenario for a Human Drama I: Foreword’, Architectural Review, 76 (1934), p. 9.

22 Shand, P. Morton, ‘Scenario for a Human Drama V: Glasgow Interlude’, Architectural Review, 77 (1935), pp. 23, 25.

23 Blomfield, Reginald, Modernismus (London, 1934), p. 82.

24 Griggs, H.J. Brock, ‘Alien Architects Invade Britain’, Architects’ Journal, 79 (1934), p. 244; ‘The Modern House by F.R.S. Yorke’, Country Life, 76 (1934), p. 178.

25 Richards, J.M., ‘Criticism in the Thirties’, in Concerning Architecture: Essays on Architectural Writers and Writings, Presented to Nikolaus Pevsner, ed. Summerson, John (London, 1968), p. 257.

26 Benton, Charlotte, A Different World: Emigre Architects in Britain 1928–1958 (London, 1995), p. 47.

27 Benton, A Different World, p. 69.

28 Dean, David, The Thirties: Recalling the English Architectural Scene (London, 1983), p. 37.

29 Darling, ‘Institutionalizing English Modernism’, p. 308.

30 Letter from P. Morton Shand to Sigfried Giedion, 1 January 1929, UDA, uncatalogued.

31 Jackson, Anthony, The Politics of Architecture: A History of Modern Architecture in Britain (London, 1970), ‘Preview’.

32 Gold, ‘“A Very Serious Responsibility”?’, pp. 255–56.

33 Betjeman, John, Ghastly Good Taste: or, A Depressing Story of the Rise and Fall of English Architecture, rev. edn (London, 1970), p. 104.

34 Williams-Ellis, Clough and Summerson, John, Architecture Here and Now (London, 1934), p. 4.

35 Pevsner, Nikolaus, An Enquiry into Industrial Art in England (Cambridge, 1937), p. 206. Cited in Whyte, William, ‘The Englishness of English Architecture: Modernism and the Making of a National International Style, 1927–1957’, Journal of British Studies, 48 (2009), pp. 441–65 (p. 454).

36 Pevsner, Nikolaus, Pioneers of the Modern Movement (London, 1936), p. 100.

37 Letter from James Bourlet & Sons Ltd to William Davidson, 11 April 1933, HMAG, GLAHA 52436.

38 Helland, The Studios, pp. 1–3.

39 Letter from P. Morton Shand to Macdonald, Smith & Co, 20 March 1933, HMAG, GLAHA 52436.

40 Shand, P. Morton, ‘The Work of Josef Hoffmann’, Architectural Review, 72 (1930), pp. 912–14.

41 Letter from Shand to Macdonald, Smith & Co., 20 March 1933.

42 Letter from P. Morton Shand to William Davidson, 31 March 1933, HMAG, GLAHA 52450.

43 Letter from William Davidson to P. Morton Shand, 5 April 1933, UDA, uncatalogued.

44 William Whyte, ‘MARS group (act. 1933–1957)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, at oxforddnb.com/view/theme/96308 (accessed on 12 March 2017).

45 Letter from Shand to Macdonald, Smith & Co, 20 March 1933.

46 Letter from Shand to Davidson, 16 April 1933, HMAG, GLAHA 52451.

47 Chapman-Huston, Desmond, The Lamp of Memory (London, 1949), p. 127.

48 Robertson, The Chronycle, p. 56.

49 Chapman-Huston, The Lamp of Memory, p. 127.

50 Schwabe, Diaries, p. 132.

51 Barnes, Harry, ‘The Mackintosh Circle’, Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society Newsletter, 29 (Spring/Summer 1981), p. 7.

52 Robins Millar, ‘Genius of Charles Mackintosh’ (unidentified news clipping), 3 May 1933, unpaginated, UGSC, MS Gen 1654.

53 K.W., ‘An Original and Unique Artist: Mackintosh Memorial Exhibition’, The Bulletin (unknown date), unpaginated, UGSC, MS Gen 1654.

54 Letter from Shand to Davidson, 7 April 1933, HMAG, GLAHA 52451.

55 Letter from Davidson to Shand, 29 April 1933, UDA, uncatalogued.

56 ‘Tributes to Scots Architect’, Aberdeen Press & Journal, 4 May 1933, p. 6.

57 John Jeffrey Waddell, ‘Review of the Memorial Exhibition’, Glasgow Herald, 4 May 1933.

58 Letter from William Davidson to Alice Talwin Morris, 10 April 1933, HMAG, GLAHA 52435.

59 ‘Art and Design’, Glasgow Museums, at collections.glasgowmuseums.com/mwebcgi/mweb?request=record;type=801;id=533612 (accessed on 13 September 2018).

60 Shand, P. Morton, ‘Charles Rennie Mackintosh 1869–1928’, Architectural Review, 73 (1933), p. 184.

61 Letter from Shand to Davidson, 26 April 1933, UDA, uncatalogued.

62 Letter from Josef Hoffmann to P. Morton Shand, 19 May 1933, HMAG, GLAHA 52385.

63 ‘Review of the Mackintosh and Macdonald Memorial Exhibition’, Glasgow Herald, 3 May 1933.

64 Helland, The Studios, p. 4.

65 Millar, ‘Genius of Charles Mackintosh’.

66 ‘Charles Rennie Mackintosh Exhibition’, Times, 5 May 1933, p. 12.

67 ‘Charles Rennie Mackintosh Exhibition’, Spectator, 26 May 1933, p. 17.

68 ‘Mackintosh Pictures Sold’, Scotsman, 2 June 1933, p. 7.

69 Letter from Shand to Davidson, 6 November 1934, HMAG, GLAHA 52455.

70 Letter from Shand to Davidson, 20 November 1934, UDA, uncatalogued.

71 Helland, The Studios, pp. 2–3.

72 Waddell, John Jeffrey, ‘Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Man and His Work’, Quarterly Illustrated of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, 3 (1933), p. 14.

73 Cited in Helland, The Studios, p. 197, but without reference to the original source.

74 Letter from Jessie Newbery to William Davidson, 30 May 1933, HMAG, GLAHA 52446.

75 Howarth, Thomas, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement (London, 1952), pp. 3031.

76 Ibid., p. 145.

77 Meeks, Carroll, ‘Thomas Howarth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 13 (1954), p. 30.

78 Peter Fleetwood-Hesketh, ‘Progressive Architect’, Times Literary Supplement, 27 March 1953, p. 200.

The Re-making of Charles Rennie Mackintosh: A Study of the 1933 Memorial Exhibition

  • Alborz Dianat

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