Stand for Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow International Exhibition 1901

M185 Stand for Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow International Exhibition 1901

Address: Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow
Date: 1900–1
Client: Glasgow School of Art
Authorship: Authorship category 1 (Mackintosh) (Mackintosh)

B/W photograph of Glasgow School of Art exhibition stand

The 1901 Glasgow International Exhibition was a vast temporary display of art, industry and manufacturing, spread across 73 acres in and around Kelvingrove Park. The successor to an earlier exhibition held on the same site in 1888, it surpassed its predecessor by attracting nearly 11.5 million visitors in its six-month run, from 2 May to 9 November. 1

The main exhibition building was the Industrial Hall. Here, and in the Grand Avenue leading to the Machinery Hall on the S. side of Dumbarton Road, over 800 stands vied with each other for attention. In a review of the exhibition, the Studio regretted the 'huddled and unsymmetrical appearance' of the interior, in which the stands were 'crowded together in a manner not conducive to architectural dignity'. 2

Plan of exhibition from 'Glasgow International Exhibition 1901: Official Guide'Plan of Industrial Hall from 'Glasgow International Exhibition 1901: Official Catalogue'

A prospectus published in March 1899 set out the regulations and conditions for exhibitors. The cost of space inside the building was 3s per square foot, with a minimum charge of 5. An 'Application for Space' form accompanied the prospectus and had to be returned to the General Manager by 1 June 1900, accompanied by a 'sketch showing the shape of the space required' and 'an elevation of the stand'. 3

Mackintosh, who had been unsuccessful in the 1898 competition for the design of the Exhibition buildings, was responsible for the design of at least four of the stands (sometimes referred to as 'stalls' or 'cases'). These were for the department store Pettigrew & Stephens , the cabinetmaker Francis Smith , the camera manufacturers Messrs Rae and the Glasgow School of Art. None of these ephemeral structures is known to survive, although part of the fascia of Francis Smith's stand was still in the possession of his son in 1950, as recorded by Thomas Howarth. 4

The Glasgow School of Art stand, number 1115C, was in the Women's Section of the exhibition. It was devoted to demonstrations of bookbinding, and was one of a cluster of five 'exhibits of working handicrafts', the others being Tapestry Weaving, Woodcarving, Honiton Lace and Basket Work. 5 Mackintosh almost certainly carried out this commission as an employee of John Honeyman & Keppie, since the School of Art was a major client of the practice. However, it does not appear to be mentioned in the practice job books. The most radically simplified of his four stands, its appearance is recorded in a photograph published in the Art Journal, Dekorative Kunst and the Studio. 6

B/W photograph of Glasgow School of Art exhibition stand

It took the form of a cage-like cubicle, with sides largely made up of lattice-work in grids of squares or oblongs. Above the lattice-work was a deep fascia inscribed with the name of the School, enclosed in a metal hoop threaded with three balls. Tapering beam ends projected from the top edge of the stand, two to each side. Writing in the Art Journal, Lewis F. Day related the severity of the stand to that of the new School of Art in Renfrew Street (an exceptionally early reference to Mackintosh as the designer of the first phase of the School building):

Compared with quasi-Oriental buildings, the stall of the Glasgow School of Art, a sort of cage in which to confine a pair of lady bookbinders, is most severely simple. It is designed, in fact, to show how simply an erection of the sort may be built, the straight lines naturally suggested by carpentry construction being allowed to assert themselves, with no attempt at ornament beyond what is afforded by judicious distribution and proportion. A similar severity is to be observed in Mr Mackintosh's permanent building for the Glasgow School of Art – planned apparently on lines nakedly utilitarian, yet everywhere revealing the marked individuality of the artist. His symbolism, as in the case of the ring and balls framing the name of the School (adjacent), is his own, and apparently for himself; he takes, at all events, no pains to make it intelligible to the mere Southerner. So imperturbably does he work on his own lines that to eyes unsympathetic it seems like affectation; but there is honestly no doubt as to the genuineness of the artistic impulse. Whether it is quite wise in him to follow it so unhesitatingly is another question – which time will answer. 7

Notes:

1: Perilla Kinchin and Juliet Kinchin, Glasgow's Great Exhibitions: 1888, 1901, 1911, 1938, 1988, Wendlebury, Oxon: White Cockade Publishing, 1988, pp. 15, 54–93.

2: 'The Glasgow Exhibition', Studio, 23, 1901, pp. 45–8, 165–73, 237–46.

3: Glasgow City Archives Collection: Glasgow International Exhibition 1901, Prospectus, March 1899, D-TC 11/4, box 1.

4: Thomas Howarth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2nd edn, 1977, p. 174.

5: Glasgow International Exhibition 1901: The Official Catalogue, Glasgow: Charles P. Watson, [1901], p. 156.

6: Lewis F. Day, 'Decorative and Industrial Art at the Glasgow Exhibition (third notice)', Art Journal, 1901, pp. 273–7; Dekorative Kunst, 5, March 1902, p. 214; 'The Glasgow Exhibition', Studio, 23, 1901, pp. 45–8, 165–73, 237–46.