Charles Rennie Mackintosh was an architect, designer and artist from Glasgow, Scotland. He is a prominent figure in the Art Nouveau movement and Scottish architecture, most notably the Glasgow School of Art building which he designed in 1897.
Among collectors, he is known for his elegant furniture designs. Some of the more notable pieces include the high-backed chairs that were praised for their simple but geometrically pleasing design. The chairs were originally commissioned by Catherine Cranston, who was influential in the development of the concept of tearoom culture in Glasgow in 1878. The chairs were specifically made for the Argyle Street Tearooms, as the amenities were meant to represent the height of contemporary design at the time.
The chair had no armrests but featured a horsehair upholstered seat and a high back topped off with an oval head piece. The back legs start off as rectangular feet and taper elegantly into circular points. Two uprights connect the base stretcher, the seat and head piece for back support. His early designs were influenced by natural and organic shapes which is evident in the handle/cut-out of the head piece, the shape of which reads as a profile of a bird. Although it was designed for one of Miss Cranston’s luncheon rooms, Mackintosh liked it so much that he used the same design for the dining room in his own house. The design became the first of many high-backed chair designs that followed.
In 1900 the chair was featured in Vienna’s 8th secession exhibition catalogue, which exposed Mackintosh’s work to Europe and strongly influenced the Vienna Workshop movement of designers in 1903. The chair’s iconic design was also featured in the 1982 film ‘Blade Runner’ inside the main protagonist’s apartment.
Mackintosh’s chairs are some of the great examples of early British modernist movement and are valued for the contribution to the contemporary industrial design.