The Glasgow Art club frieze ! a modern recreation

At the turn of the century a young Glasgow based architect called Charles Rennie Mackintosh was commissioned to design a frieze for the well known “Glasgow Art Club” … Well that is a short version of the story, it would seem there is much discussion about who was commissioned and who got credit for it but it is certain that Mackintosh claimed the recognition and a piece in the period magazine of the time the “Baillie” attributes this work to Mackintosh a young promising artist/architect from Glasgow. The frieze together with detailed wood work, and various elements gave a great Art Nouveau character to the Gallery of the club.

The frieze long gone was to be re-create, and it took a good number of years and a few specialists to plan it carefully, redesign it from scratch and finally re-craft it. Many specialists were involved and yet no stencillers by trade although the painter the club used has great tradition in re-creations and historic ones… responsible for the recent renovation of Stirling castle. Mackintosh specialists were involved in the thinking process. Dr Pamela Robertson, Dr James McCaulay who both have spent a life time researching on Mackintosh. Chris Allan a trained fine art artist was commissioned to put the design together from what was found and from the original elements of the original illustrations as I believe no original detailled sketchs were found.


As for the colours It is always difficult, a painted or stencilled frieze is the first thing to go in an historic building, it gets painted or plastered over and it becomes very difficult to access samples of paint and when you do the original colour have been modified by layers and layers of paint. No colour photographs are usually available of turn of the century friezes and no record either. Its a guessing game ! James McCaulay in his presentation of the Art Club frieze last night stated that “this was the best which could be achieved in the circumstances” and that pleased me very much… I have had that discussion many times with clients and specialists demanding justifications on colour schemes…


I was introduced to the scheme last night at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society AGM and i found it stunning. Very “Art Nouveau” swirl with some Scottish Thistles. But I could not somehow agree with the whole design. And that is my point about the lack of “stencilling” expertise. A stencil is made of elements linked by bridges, in the case of this design, no bridges available in the thistle stems  … is it a mistake? Did the artist miss something or was that design no meant to be applied by stencil? We will never know for sure but the scheme is stunning and should be seen.


The Glasgow Art Club is a private club but it holds painting exhibition in its Gallery on a regular basis… Its located in Glasgow at 185 Bath Street. Worth checking before you make your way in case they are holding functions…


Thats another piece of Mackintosh Heritage available for all to see. Its a great feel to see all the elements appearing one after the other. And for that I am grateful…

I hope you can make it to see it at some point… Off course now it should be around for a while.

Betty xx

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