Alexander McGibbon

Architect and perspective artist; JHKM employee

Glasgow architect and perspective artist Alexander McGibbon (1861–1938), was the second son of Alexander McGibbon Senior (c. 1821–1875), an 'inspector of iron bridges', and his wife, Jane Cameron Selkirk (c. 1821–1890). 1 McGibbon Senior, a Perthshire farmer's son, was variously a marine engineer, and one half of Raeburn & McGibbon, a short-lived (c. 1862–5) iron manufacturer, at the Elliot Foundry, in Glasgow. 2

McGibbon was articled to architect Harry Blair c. 1875, and attended the Glasgow School of Art. Little is known of Blair's work and his disappearance from the records after c. 1883 suggests he may have emigrated. During McGibbon's time, Blair probably built 7 Montgomerie Gardens, Great Western Road, Glasgow, in 'first-class style', around 1878. 3

From 1882 until around 1886, McGibbon was a draughtsman in the office of John Honeyman. McGibbon also took classes, alongside John Keppie at the Glasgow Architectural Association. Honeyman, David Barclay and Campbell Douglas proposed him as Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and he was admitted on 9 June 1884. 4 In 1885, Francis Newbery, the new headmaster of the Art School, 'persuaded the whole class to transfer' from the Glasgow Architectural Association to the School. 5 McGibbon's Glasgow Herald obituary states that 'in his early years he acted as assistant to Mr James Sellars', (of Campbell Douglas & Sellars); this may have happened after 1886. McGibbon also spent time with Burnet Son & Campbell around 1887. 6

John Honeyman & Keppie's cash book records payments during his second period with the firm, from February 1889 until October 1890, during which time he was photographed with fellow staff, including Henry Mitchell and C. R. Mackintosh. 7 McGibbon's obituary in the Glasgow Herald later stated: 'However, [McGibbon] was not to any great extent a practising architect. His special gifts lay in teaching, and in the production of remarkably fine architectural drawings. In these spheres he gained distinction and esteem.' 8

McGibbon was appointed assistant to William J. Anderson, Director of Architecture at the Glasgow School of Art, in 1890. 9 He lectured on a range of subjects within and outwith the School. In 1894–5, for example, he gave a successful series of public lectures in the Corporation Galleries on Scottish medieval ecclesiastical architecture, presided over, on behalf of the School of Art, by architect T. L. Watson. The lectures were 'intended to supplement practical acquaintance with architecture ... by a critical review of style'. 10 After W. J. Anderson's unexpected death in 1900, McGibbon succeeded him as the first 'Professor', rather than 'Director', of Architecture, being granted the professorial style around 1905. He was to prove 'a greatly loved teacher who exercised a great influence on several generations of students'. 11

Around 1896 he joined the Glasgow Institute of Architects, in which he took an active role, and was a council member in 1897–1900, sitting alongside J. J. Burnet and John Keppie. 12 The family of W. S. Moyes, an assistant in John Honeyman & Keppie / Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh's office between 1898 and 1907, were his neighbours in West Bank Quadrant during the 1900s. 13

McGibbon became principally known for his 'very considerable skill in draughtsmanship', and worked freelance for various practices, producing highly-finished presentation drawings of other people's work. 14 Among his many architectectural drawings are nine perspective drawings for John Honeyman & Keppie / Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh, commissioned between 1891 and 1910: Glasgow Art Galleries (Towers), Manchester Municipal Technical School, Royal Insurance Company offices, Brechin Cathedral, Pettigrew & Stephens, Redlands, Paisley Free Library and Museum, Iona Cathedral, and the Glasgow School of Art (half-built).

His 'measured drawings of English and Scottish Cathedrals', some of which accompanied his articles in the Builder during 1893–4, were singled out in his obituaries. 15 Each depiction was 'a masterpiece, the reproductions of which are treasured by those who are fortunate to possess them'. He also 'executed thousands of perspective drawings of noteworthy buildings about to be erected ... for many years no exhibition ... was considered complete without examples of [his] art'. An imagined preview (untraced) of the forthcoming Glasgow International Exhibition 1901, drawn in 1900, gave 'an excellent idea' of the site, which had been designed by another architect (James Miller), and was interpreted in 'an admirable sketch' by McGibbon. 'In the foreground are pavilions, kiosks, bandstands ... The [River] Kelvin ... divides the picture. The main buildings are of light and elegant design ... over the serried housetops, one is reminded by a forest of masts that Glasgow made the [River] Clyde'. 16 He appears to have been kind-hearted and generous: 'If he felt a man could not well afford to pay' for his work, McGibbon 'forgot' to charge them. 17

As a token of esteem, McGibbon was presented with his portrait, painted by his Art School colleague, Maurice Greiffenhagen, when he retired during the session 1924–5 (not 1926, as is sometimes stated). 18 He died in December 1938 and was buried in Sighthill Cemetery. McGibbon's executor, his nephew, James Sandilands, presented Greiffenhagen's portrait and nearly 40 church drawings to the School of Art in 1946. 19

Notes:

1: Census 1861, www.ancestry.co.uk; Statutory Births, Deaths, www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk [accessed 1 April 2014].

2: Edinburgh Gazette, 10 February 1865, p. 154; Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1862–3, pp. 189, 246; Census information, Statutory Marriages, Deaths, www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk [accessed 1 April 2014].

3: Glasgow Herald, 26 February 1879, p. 3; 'Harry Blair', and 'Alexander McGibbon', Dictionary of Scottish Architects, www.scottisharchitects.org.uk [accessed 3 March 2014].

4: A. Brodie, A. Felstead, et al., Directory of British Architects 1834–1914, London: Continuum, 2001, 2, p. 100; David Stark, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Co., Catrine, Ayrshire: Stenlake Publishing, 2004, p. 149.

5: David Stark, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Co., Catrine, Ayrshire: Stenlake Publishing, 2004, p. 149.

6: Glasgow Herald, 7 December 1938, p. 15; Obituary, Builder, 156, 6 January 1939, p. 21; 'Burnet Son & Campbell', Dictionary of Scottish Architects, www.scottisharchitects.org.uk [accessed 3 March 2014].

7: David Stark, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Co., Catrine, Ayrshire: Stenlake Publishing, 2004, pp. 146, 149; The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: John Honeyman & Keppie / Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh / Keppie Henderson cash book, 1889–1917, GLAHA 53079, p. 1, '1889, Feb. 28, McGibbon, 12', and p. 8, '1890, Oct. 31, Alexr. McGibbon, 15', Payment.

8: Glasgow Herald, 7 December 1938, p. 15.

9: Obituary, Builder, 156, 6 January 1939, p. 21; Glasgow Herald, 7 December 1938, p. 15.

10: Glasgow Herald, 25 October 1894, p. 4; 14 February 1895, p. 3.

11: Glasgow Herald, 7 December 1938, p. 15; David Stark, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Co., Catrine, Ayrshire: Stenlake Publishing, 2004, p. 149; Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1901–2, Appendix, p. 188; 1905–6, Appendix, p. 167; 'William James Anderson' and 'Alexander McGibbon', Dictionary of Scottish Architects, www.scottisharchitects.org.uk [accessed 3 March 2014].

12: Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1896–7, Appendix, p. 82; 1897–8, Appendix, p. 98; 1898–9, Appendix, p. 100; 1899–1900, Appendix, p. 101.

13: Census information, Valuation Rolls, www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk [accessed 3 April 2014].

14: Obituary, Builder, 156, 6 January 1939, p. 21; David Stark, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Co., Catrine, Ayrshire: Stenlake Publishing, 2004, p. 149; Glasgow Herald, 7 December 1938, p. 15.

15: Obituary, Builder, 156, 6 January 1939, p. 21; Obituary, Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, 46, 6 February 1939, p. 363.

16: Glasgow Herald, 7 December 1938, p. 15; Morning Post, 6 February 1900, p. 4.

17: 'Alexander McGibbon', Dictionary of Scottish Architects, www.scottisharchitects.org.uk [accessed 3 March 2014].

18: Aberdeen Journal, 2 May 1925, p. 4; Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1924–5, Appendix, p. 196; 1925–6, Appendix, p. 200; Scotsman, 20 August 1924, p. 5; Obituary, Builder, 156, 6 January 1939, p. 21; Glasgow Herald, 7 December 1938, p. 15; 1 May 1946, p. 3. The portrait was destroyed by fire at The Glasgow School of Art, 23 May 2014.

19: England & Wales, National Probate Calendar, 1858–1966, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 3 April 2014]; Glasgow Herald, 6 December 1938, p. 1; 1 May 1946, p. 3; Scotsman, 1 May 1946, p. 3.