I recently had the opportunity to visit the new Charles Rene Mackintosh exhibition in Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery. I actually visited as I thought I had a meeting but only released when on the train it wasn’t until next week. So you know, make the best of a miscalculation of a morning!
Though it was through me treating my diary like a collection of unreadable ancient hieroglyphics, the exhibition had been on my mind for some time and I was eager to go and see it. I was a big fan of Mackintosh’s work when I was younger and used to draw his furniture designs in my exercise books (this may sound cultured but rest assured you would of found Pokemon and S Club 7 lyrics on the other pages). So the idea of an in-depth look at his work and the development of the Glasgow style was right up my street!
If you don’t know much about Mackintosh let me fill you in, C. David style. Mackintosh is considered probably as the most famous pioneer of Art Deco work. His illustrative and architectural work is considered the pinnacle of it’s clean and highly stylish aesthetic. It’s truly iconic and very easy to identify, lot’s of straight lines, minimalist, fauna and flora and Japanese influence. Go and have a google (you’ll thank me!) and then read on.
The exhibition is really thoughtfully laid out and I really appreciated the amount of consideration that had been given to the flow of your visit within the rooms that house the exhibition. It starts with a room of preemptive work, both by designers and artists who’s style could relate to Mackintosh’s and a young Macintosh himself. It’s all an interesting piece of the jigsaw puzzle of Macintosh’s life. There’s no clear indication of the style he was about develop in here and it makes for an interesting start to the collection.
A young Mackintosh piece.
The next part of the exhibition was my favourite. You go from a collection of quaint pieces and then BAM! No I didn’t walk into the door, I walked through it and was confronted by 3 huge Macintosh posters. This part of the exhibition is called ‘The Shock of the New’ and it’s layout really makes you feel what it would be like to see that type of design for the first time. It’s an astonishingly well thought out transition.
An amazing set of pieces that really surprises you.
This part of the exhibition really starts to drill down into Macintosh’s development. How he met others through his architectural work that helped give the movement true momentum. I particularly enjoyed this as it can be easy to think of Macintosh and hid style as existing in a vacuum but the exhibition helps us see how he became a part of something bigger. He became part of an art group that called themselves ‘The Immortals’ and the gallery showcases some of there work to. They all continued to work towards the same goal, Art Deco heaven on earth.
We also get to see some of Macintosh’s furniture design here and it’s expectedly wonderful. It was lovely to see in person and I spent a good few moments sat and having a good look at the way it had been put together and the lovely attention to detail.
Me in the mirror, asking myself why I thought that meeting was today...and also loving the furniture.
I'm not being funny but that doors giving me the feels.
This all forms the longest part of the exhibitions layout and it’s a joy. My highlights included some beautiful book covers done by other deco artists, a lovely set up of Macintosh’s Chinese Pagoda???? And his designs for Liverpool Anglicans Cathedral. He was ultimately passed over in favour of Giles Gilbert Scott and though there are similarities in their design I can’t help but feel bereft over the fact we never got his flourishes. I also feel sorry for him as he submitted full plans and was still passed over. He better of got paid for his time!
Anglican Cathedral Plans
One of his stencils. I really love it, but I'm not sure I'm still over when in the 90's everyone would use a sponge and stencil to put shells all over their house.
Some gorgeous book covers that were inspired by the Deco movement.
The final area has some more furniture, some of his textile designs which are gorgeous. Even if you don’t draw much I’d recommend taking a sketch book and feeling inspired to draw a take on these. You’ll get lost in the pattern and you won’t want to be found!
It also features a screen with some lovely short films of some of Macintosh’s buildings. It’s a lovely way to include them as they’re well put together examples of how Macintosh’s work was often only completed when it all came together. The house, the furniture, the lighting. It was all about following the deco style bravely and to where ever it took him. It made me really grateful for the amount of people who supported his work and gave him the space, the finances and the confidence for him to really flourish as an artist.
Lastly we have a very poignant section on Macintosh and his contemporaries deaths (turns out calling yourself the immortals doesn’t make it true, at least in the literal sense!). We get some lovely years of Macintosh and his friends final pieces of work. Macintosh almost completely changes his style and we get to see some of his fantastic water colours which shows your never to old to start again.
One of his late watercolours
Overall I had a fantastic time at the Macintosh exhibition. It’s really well put together and is good for Macintosh aficionados (I like to think they call themselves Macivites!) or people who’ve never heard of him and his work. There is a brilliant mix of disciplines on display that’s sure to appeal to everyone and they’ve done a grand job of really putting a thorough exhibition on.
The gift shop is also worth a visit as they have a Charles Rennie Macintosh rubber duck, why he wasn’t called Quackintosh though is just beyond me!
The exhibition is on at the Liverpool Walker art gallery until the 26th of August and costs £9 with concessions available. Until next time!