Side chairs, created in 1897 by architect, artist as well as creator Charles Rennie Mackintosh, was an inspiration for the Arts and Crafts movement, that emphasized organic, natural shapes. The side chair is not armless and is typically used in conjunction with the table for dining. Mackintosh created this chair for one of his clients, Catherine Cranston, whose family owned a tea shop. Between 1900 and 1912, she asked Mackintosh to create the design and furnishings for her tea rooms. the Side Chair was intended to be one of the chairs arranged on a table in the middle area. With the creation of a high-backed chair, Mackintosh hoped to create an intimate, smaller space for the people seated around the table.
Art and Nature
The side chair is decorated with the soaring bird cut from the oval plaque that is located at its top.
Tea Time Trendsetter
It was in 1878 that Catherine Cranston opened her first tearoom, called the Crown Luncheon Room located on Argyle Street, in Glasgow. The concept was so popular that she decided to open other tearooms in Scotland and her model established the standard for other tearooms across Great Britain.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Argyle Chair was designed for intimate dining
Cranston was a businesswoman from Glasgow who had a love of the arts. She thought up the idea of opening a number of tea establishments in Glasgow that had beautiful interiors.Having established an established tea shop in Argyle Street in Glasgow, the owner enlisted Mackintosh to collaborate with the architect as well as designer George Walton on the interiors of a new building located in Buchanan Street in 1896.The following year, Mackintosh and Walton collaborated again to design the Cranston’s Argyle Street Tea Rooms along with Mackintosh focused on the furnishings.
The project was Mackintosh’s first significant private commission of his career. It also gave him the chance to test some of his ideas about furniture’s use to create an impression of separation and enclosure within the room.One of the furniture items Mackintosh developed as part of the commission was a high-backed seat to be used in the Luncheon Room, which aimed to create an personal dining environment to diners.The Argyle Chair features long and tapering uprights, which intersect with an extended oval headrest. The stylized shape of a swallow flying was created from the headrest to give it an artistic and iconic design.
The chair’s mix of basic and sculptural components with the emphasis on natural forms inspired the ideas of the Arts and Crafts movement, of which Mackintosh was an admirer.Its remarkable back legs are a complicated piece of woodworking with an appearance that is with a square base before curving , then becoming circular towards the top.The high, unusually tall chairs made them appear as screens surrounding the tables, creating the impression of a space inside the room. This was a method that Mackintosh would further explore and further refine in a number designs for furniture he later created.
In 1900 in 1900, The Argyle Chair was displayed in the Eighth Exhibition of the Vienna Secession in Austria in which Mackintosh’s art was regarded as highly prestigious and had a significant influence on the work of the architects, artists and designers from the Wiener Werkstatte community.Mackintosh would go to design furniture and interiors of several other of the Cranston’s properties which included the famous Willow Tea Rooms. They were good acquaintances and he was able to design the interiors for Hous’hill for her in 1904.Images are from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences Photographs taken by Ryan Hernandez. The featured image is courtesy of the Glasgow Mackintosh group.