Thursday, October 22, 2009

Faded flowers and Charles Rennie Mackintosh

click photo to enlarge
The reputation of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) has never been higher than in recent years. It's difficult to go into a bookshop, a "craft" store, or a jewellers without coming across his name. Books, brooches, posters, mugs, picture frames - it seems that his Art Nouveau designs can adorn just about anything. And yet, this decorative work, as exemplified by the stencil patterns he used in the Willow Tea Rooms, Glasgow, is only a small part of his ouvre.

Mackintosh studied at the Glasgow School of Art, and in the 1890s he painted, did graphic work and metalwork that showed Art Nouveau influences he'd probably picked up from reading The Studio, a publication which began in 1893. However, his name really came to prominence when he won the competition to design a new building for the Glasgow School of Art. His was a thoroughly modern conception that was influenced by Voysey and Scottish baronial architecture. It mixed the sharply rectilinear with the fluid lines of Art Nouveau, and deeply influenced continental, particularly Austrian, architects. Mackintosh went on to design other fine buildings and furniture. However, he was a man who alienated customers and fellow architects alike, and in 1913 he left his Glasgow practice and moved to Walberswick in Suffolk, where he concentrated on his paintings. During his time as an architect he had painted flowers, and in Suffolk he threw himself into this work, producing wonderful images of, principally, wild flowers in a combination of pencil and watercolour. He later went to live in Mediterranean France, and in the final years of his life painted landscapes and cut flowers in vases.

This latter work came to mind a few days ago when I was in a Leicestershire church. On the octagonal font cover, lit by strong light from a nearby window, was a vase of hydrangea flowers. The person who had placed them there had carefully selected a variety of coloured blooms - pink, blue, purple and white. But, the colours were fading fast as the flowers died. Their slow decline from bright, cheeriness to a pale memory of what had been, reminded me of the poignant beauty I once saw in a Mackintosh watercolour of 1905 that depicted faded roses. With that inspiration in mind, I took this photograph.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 6.3mm (30mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.2
Shutter Speed: 1/40
ISO: 320
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On