cf. R. Billcliffe, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings and Interior Designs, London, 1986 (3rd Edition), pp. 43-4, 48, 260, no.1897.13.
G. and C. Larner, The Glasgow Style, London, 1979, p. 23-25 for similar chair.
Following the success of her new Tea Room in Buchanan Street, Glasgow, opened in 1896, Kate Cranston asked her two interior designers, George Walton and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, to collaborate on the refurbishment and extension of her nearby Tea Rooms in Argyle Street. Mackintosh and Walton exchanged roles, with Mackintosh taking responsibility for the moveable furniture while Walton designed the wall decorations and also some of the fixtures such as room dividers and wall panelling. Alan Crawford has shown that the date of this work is 1898-99, not 1897 as had been proposed earlier. This places it firmly in line with the finishing of the first phase of Glasgow School of Art and the mood of that bold work can be seen in the symbolism and sturdy functionality of the pieces Mackintosh designed for Argyle Street.
The most famous piece of furniture designed for these rooms is the oval back-rail chair used in the Luncheon Room, a vast barn of a room, almost three times as long as it was wide. Walton was responsible for the sub-division for this room with a series of screens and Mackintosh used the high-backed chairs to create islands of more intimate space within it. For the tables around the perimeter of the room Mackintosh designed this lower chair, repeating the motif of thin back slats (using three narrower slats here instead of two broad laths) and introducing curves into the hand-rail at the top of the chair, here pierced with a hole, a feature repeated in the chairs for the Ingram Street Tea Rooms designed in 1900. The lower part of the chair is almost identical in design to the oval back-rail chair. Variants exist with a different shape to the hand-hole; these are now thought to be later pieces, perhaps commissioned by Miss Cranston as replacements for damaged chairs and not made with Mackintosh's supervision.