Europa 1900
ess flamboyant and perhaps consequently less well known than other branches of AN, the Glasgow style is no less elegant or viscerally pleasing. The Glasgow Four, led by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, spearheaded the creation of a unique style of decor that bears elements of several contrasting styles, but nonetheless it is distinct. Its hallmarks are long, long, rectilinear lines, reaching up as if appealing to the heavens, and offset within this lattice are subtly elegant curves and natural designs such as the Mackintosh rose. Curves and colours are sparse against the geometric backdrop and so seem accentuated. The lines hold back the flamboyance of the curves, creating a delightful visual tension. Mackintosh is the Mozart to Horta’s Beethoven; the John Lennon to Guimard’s Paul McCartney; the Larry to Gaudi’s Curly. Like other innovative AN designers across Europe, Mackintosh’s work was not immediately embraced by local art purveyors. Though now revered by Scotland as an artistic champion, the cruel irony was that he was unable to find work for most of his life in his homeland and worked in England to make a living.

he Mackintosh style clearly derives from the rustic Arts and Crafts style popular in the Britain in the 19th century. For this reason, his work is often categorized in Arts and Crafts rather than Art Nouveau, which is understandable. The Arts and Crafts style pioneered by William Morris believed in sturdy, high quality craftsmanship in harmony with the natural environment, and this is consistent with Mackintosh’s conception of his work. He liberally borrowed and adapted Arts and Crafts motifs such as the rectilinear grid and its distinctive typefaces. However, his vision also surpassed Arts and Crafts creators, reaching with sinuous tendrils into the future and absorbing the ethereal and imaginary delights of Art Nouveau, rather than simply concentrating on recreating nostalgic sentiments of life as it might have been in bygone days (before the Industrial Revolution). It’s this forward brashness that sets Mackintosh apart from Arts and Crafts predecessors and c atapults him squarely into the forefront of Art Nouveau. Chance encounters with Victor Horta and Hector Guimard early in the 20th century undoubtedly influenced his thinking, and likewise Mackintosh's involvements with German and Austrian designers would later play a pivotal role in the nascent Secessionist movement.

ll of Mackintosh's masterworks are situated in the Glasgow area. Like Guimard and Gaudi, his first commissions were for public fixtures, in this case streetlamps in Arts and Crafts style. His first major creation was the Glasgow School of Arts, which still stands and functions to this day. The GSA conducts visits of the school interior and explains the functional considerations of his work. Some original Mackintosh furniture is still used today in conference rooms and classrooms and you too can sit on them, though photography is prohibited. The dangling rectilinear lamps in the GSA library would foreshadow his use of lamps in later buildings. By and large, however, the GSA bears a stronger connection to more austere Arts and Crafts style than to the less restrained Art Nouveau style.

wo of the Willow Tea Rooms in downtown Glasgow, designed in 1904 by Mackintosh for the patron Kate Cranston, are still in operation today as tea rooms. The Sauciehall Street Tea Room (217 Sauciehall St.) features the exquisite Room de Luxe, which is often reserved for special functions, though you can simply walk upstairs from the main floor of the Gallery to take a peek. The use of the Mackintosh rose motif is used more extensively in these tea rooms than in any other of his works.

he Hill House in the peaceable town of Helensburgh 22 miles north of Glasgow is Mackintosh's masterpiece. Designed for patron Walter Blackie in 1902, Mackintosh had free rein with his imagination to run rampant with its interior designs. Like other Mackintosh buildings, the exterior is unremarkable and conservative. The dearth of images available from the inside, due to the National Trust for Scotland's zealous photography prohibition, is unfortunate, because it's not easy to imagine how the interior might be after seeing the exterior. A few decent images of interiors can be found on here and here. A rich indigo glow pervades the airy open spaces of the house, and the horizontally-challenged f urniture (especially the chairs) in the Hill House are now characteristic icons of the Mackintosh style. Though access to the site is relatively difficult, and opening hours are limited, efforts to reach the Hill House by AN fans will be rewarded.

n southern Glasgow, the most recent Mackintosh construction, in 1996 to be precise, is also one of his oldest grand designs (1901). Almost a century after its conception, The House for an Art Lover was constructed according to a submission to a German design competition by Mackintosh and his wife Margaret Macdonald, another member of the Glasgow Four. This Wohnhaus eines Kunstfreundes earned a special prize for its distinct personal qualities. The resulting contemporary construction of the house permits the visitor the rare opportunity to see an authentic Art Nouveau house as it might have appeared at the turn of the century, in pristine condition. Used now as a site for functions, the house is easily accessible and open for public visits.