Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

A rare and important high-back oak chair, circa 1898-99
the oval top rail carved with apple motif, flanked by tapering finials, with solid splats extending to arched stretcher, with rectangular drop-in seat, on square tapered legs joined by six turned stretchers, the seat rail numbered '3'
(1) Billcliffe, pl.1897.23, and designs, pl.D1897.24, comparable examples; pl.1899.16, version of chair with arms; (9) Howarth, pl. 12, contemporary photograph of 120 Mains Street, Glasgow, example with arms; (8) The Glasgow School of Art Collection, pl.7&7a, comparable examples; Toronto, 1978, p.13, illustrated
Toronto, 1967, no.31; Toronto, 1975; Toronto, 1978, no.108; Washington, 1985, no.35

Lot Essay

A variant of the chair with oval back-rail designed in 1898-99 for the Luncheon Room of the Argyle Street Tea Rooms, Glasgow. The chair used in the Luncheon Room differs only in the treatment of the oval back-rail; in that chair it is pierced with the shape of a flying bird while in this variant the back-rail is incised with a circular shape, perhaps intended to hold a decorative panel. A variant of this chair, with the incised circle but also with arms and a painted panel inset in the back-rail, was shown at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society in 1899 and later at the 8th Exhibition of the Vienna Secession, where it was acquired by Koloman Moser (collection Museum of Decorative Arts, Copenhagen; a second example, with a circular hole through the back-rail is in the collection of the Glasgow School of Art.

It seems likely that this chair was adapted by Mackintosh from the Tea Room original to provide a more domestic design which could be enhanced by the insertion of painted panels, either made by himself or Margaret Macdonald, as in the Copenhagen chair. It was probably made for his own use and is possibly the unidentified chair shown alongside the Copenhagen armchair at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society in 1899. The oval back-rail chair is the first of Mackintosh's chairs to have an exaggeratedly high back; when used in groups around a dining table, they enclose both table and diners inside a palisade of uprights and figurative back-rails enhancing the experience of the meal.

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