Additions and alterations to Glasgow Art Club

M071 Additions and alterations to Glasgow Art Club

Address: 185, Bath Street, Glasgow G2 4HU
Date: 1892–3; 1912
Client: Glasgow Art Club
Authorship: Authorship category 2 (Mackintosh and Office) (Mackintosh and Office)

Design

The neo-classical terraced town houses at 187 and 191 Bath Street were built in the 1830s, probably by John Baird I. 1 They were bought in 1892 by Glasgow Art Club on the recommendation of its accommodation sub-committee whose members included John Keppie. He was subsequently appointed architect for the new Club House.

Keppie's design connected the two houses internally, removed the entrance stairs and portico from 191 Bath Street, and added a spacious, top-lit gallery at the rear (S.), with two short corridors attaching it to the older building. The entrance hall, stair and gallery were embellished with woodwork and decorative details in French Renaissance and Aesthetic styles, which suggest the work of more than one designer. 2

In 1893 the gallery ceiling was furnished with 'an ingenious gauze arrangement for the purpose of softening and diffusing the light and preventing any unnecessary reflection on the pictures'. 3 The original arrangement of the roof, with the trusses visible, can be seen in the drawings submitted to Glasgow Dean of Guild Court in August 1892, in a sketch of the completed gallery published in the Evening Times on 5 June 1893 and in a photograph published in the Graphic on 24 June 1893. 4

Significant changes were made to the gallery roof in 1951 when its external form was altered, the exterior of the clerestory was clad with asbestos sheets, and painted glass panels within an aluminium structure were inserted in to the open lantern roof to decrease the ingress of light. 5

Colour photograph of S. elevation to Bath StreetColour photograph of view of gallery looking E.

Authorship

Sketches of the interior scheme for the Club drawn and signed by Mackintosh were published in the Bailie, a Glasgow magazine, on 7 June 1893. The sketches also bear Keppie's name: he was named universally at the time as architect of the project. 6 It seems that while Keppie was in charge, Mackintosh contributed to the work, but the extent of his involvement is not entirely clear. Details that suggest Mackintosh's input are the pierced ventilation grates; unusual form of columns on the chimneypieces, which are repeated in contemporary John Honeyman & Keppie work at Craigie Hall; and the clockface of the W. chimneypiece, which has similarities with a clockface design for the Canal Boatmen's Institute, published in the British Architect in 1895. 7

The title on the cover sheet of the drawings submitted to Glasgow Dean of Guild Court Court in July 1892 is very similar to the titles on the drawing by Mackintosh published in the Bailie a month earlier, but his hand is not otherwise evident.

B/W photograph of lithographed sketch of fittings at Glasgow Art Club 'Cartoon Supplement', 'Bailie', 7 June 1893, p. 1Colour photograph of W. chimneypiece in galleryColour photograph of E. chimneypiece in gallery

In the sketchbook which he had used on his 1891 tour of Italy, Mackintosh later made two undated sketches showing aspects of the Art Club interior almost identical to the finished form: the carved newel post and classical arches in the entrance hall and a set of doors and fretwork covers for ventilation ducts in the gallery. Although the sketches suggest that Mackintosh designed these elements, because they are not dated it is not known at what stage of the design process they were drawn, meaning they cannot be definitively attributed to Mackintosh. It has been suggested that the design of the gallery doors may have been based on a bed sketched by Mackintosh at the Museum van Oudhden in Antwerp towards the end of his Thomson Scholarship travels. 8

Colour photograph of E. gallery door, Glasgow Art Club, 2010Colour photograph of fretwork cover of ventilation duct incorporation the letters G, A and C.Colour photograph of fretwork cover of ventilation ductColour photograph of sketch for entrance hallColour photograph of sketch for gallery door

Decoration

Both the drawings in Mackintosh's North Italian sketchbook and the sketches published in the Bailie suggest that a frieze of curvilinear, probably organic, forms decorated the upper section of both the gallery and the entrance hall walls. The existence and design of these friezes, particularly in the gallery, have been investigated in recent years. Descriptions contemporary with the opening of the Club suggest a light colour scheme throughout the building. The Evening News described the colouring of the 'large gallery' as 'especially notable, the walls being terra cotta with ornamented frieze and wood-panelled dado'. The Evening Times reported that the 'wall-painting etc is all in quiet tones – creams and delicate greens predominating'. Unfortunately, the photograph of the gallery published in the Graphic is not of sufficiently high quality to show any patterning on the upper part of the wall. 9 Scientific analysis of plaster samples from the frieze area undertaken by Historic Scotland in 2004 concluded that the 'earliest design scheme was revealed to be a yellowy cream colour with elements in yellow, a pale pink and pale green.' 10

The original gallery frieze must have been relatively restrained, for when Keppie was consulted in March 1911 on the apparently long-held notion of installing a frieze of casts of the Elgin Marbles in the gallery, he expressed serious doubts about the appropriateness of such a frieze in relation to the 'general architectural scheme' of the gallery, and the detrimental effect it could have on exhibitions of work displayed there. He also drew attention to practical issues associated with a frieze of casts. The artists' meeting discussed the idea further, but voted against. 11

Photographs of the Art Club entrance hall, dining room and gallery published in the Scottish Field in December 1913 show that the original colour scheme in the gallery had been maintained: the principle wall colour was quite dark, perhaps still terracotta, with the light-coloured frieze area above. The quality of the photograph again precludes the secure identification of the frieze design.

B/W photograph of lithographed sketch of Gallery, Glasgow Art Club 'Evening Times', 5 June 1893, p. 2B/W photograph of Gallery, Glasgow Art Club 'Graphic', no. 1230, 24 June 1893, p. 727Scan of illustration of Glasgow Art Club interiors from Scottish Field magazine, December 1913, p. 391

Notes:

1: Elizabeth Williamson, Anne Riches and Malcolm Higgs, Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, London: Penguin, 1990, p. 213.

2: Detailed research into the main entrance door, hall doors and chimneypieces can be found in Roger Billcliffe, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings and Interior Designs, Moffat, Dumfriesshire: Cameron & Hollis, 4th edn, 2009, pp. 26–7.

3: 'The New Glasgow Art Club', Graphic, no. 1230, 24 June 1893, p. 727.

4: Glasgow City Archives Collection: Glasgow Dean of Guild plans, B4/12/1/2067; Evening Times, 5 June 1893, p. 2; 'The New Glasgow Art Club', Graphic, no. 1230, 24 June 1893, p.727.

5: Glasgow Art Club Archive: Glasgow Art Club Council minutes, book 11, 29 October 1951; Nick Haynes, 'Glasgow Art Club Conservation Management Plan', April 2011, p. 34.

6: 'I DELT' follows Mackintosh' name to indicate his authorship. 'Cartoon Supplement', Bailie, 7 June 1893, p. 1; Glasgow Art Club Archive: Glasgow Art Club Council minutes, book 5, 26 May 1892; Nick Haynes, 'Glasgow Art Club Conservation Management Plan', April 2011, p. 50.

7: Roger Billcliffe, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings and Interior Designs, Moffat, Dumfriesshire: Cameron & Hollis, 4th edn, 2009, pp. 26–7. Elizabeth Williamson, Anne Riches and Malcolm Higgs, Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, London: Penguin, 1990, p. 213. 'Our Illustrations', British Architect, 44, 5 July 1895, pp. 3ff.

8: Commentary on Mackintosh, 'North Italian Sketchbook', pp.90–1, www.gsa.ac.uk/mackintoshsketchbook/ [accessed 5 May 2011].

9: Evening News, 2 June 1893, p. 2; Evening Times, 5 June 1893, p. 2; Graphic, no. 1230, 24 June 1893, p. 727.

10: Historic Scotland Conservation Centre, 'Glasgow Art Club', 11 November 2004, p. 14.

11: Glasgow Art Club Archive: Council minute book 7, pp. 191–2, artists' meeting, 27 March 1911.