Is a Glasgow Rose the same as a Mackintosh Rose?

Stained glass in a door at Hill House, Helensburgh, near Glasgow, 1902-3 (Photo by ahisgett - CC-BY)

Look at Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s designs for furnishings, textiles, stained glass etc. and it won’t be long before you see a characteristic rose: typically pink, and less symmetrical than classic rose motifs. The petals often have strong outlines, perhaps the leading of stained glass, or the white space of a stencilled image.

Is it right to call these Mackintosh Roses?  His wife, born Margaret Macdonald, created similar roses, like these on a panel for a ‘Rose Boudoir’ designed by the couple. But other Glasgow artists and designers of the late 19th and early 20th century used them too – like Herbert McNair and his wife Frances, Margaret’s sister.

Ultimately, the inspiration is thought to have come from Jessie Newbery, a teacher at the city’s School of Art, who used appliqué roses in her embroidery. She cut pieces of cloth freehand and attached them with lines of satin stitch, forming the flower’s structure,

These became a distinctive feature of the “Glasgow Style” associated with both Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements. The roses may be  interpreted as symbols of love, femininity, and/or art.

Some people prefer to call this kind of rose a Glasgow Rose – after all, it was not exclusive to Mr. and Mrs. Mackintosh – but the rose’s name is not such a hot issue as the concern over ‘Mockintosh’ souvenirs devaluing the originals. Although there are some fine Mackintosh-inspired modern craft pieces there’s also what one curator called a “staggering array” of “Mackintosh duvet covers, chopping boards, doormats, playing cards and pillboxes”. All the same, he admitted there was an “undeniable demand” for the “many examples of ‘Mockintosh’ that have a bit of a cringe factor”.

The rose by either name may smell as sweet, but when poorly printed on a shopping bag does it seem a little less fragrant?

More on the decorative arts associated with this time and place in: The Glasgow Style: Artists in the Decorative Arts, Circa 1900

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  • eiffel says:

    I’ve never understood the argument that a poor-quality copy can somehow devalue a high-quality original.

    Either people can tell the difference between the two, in which case it just emphasizes the high quality of the original, or else people can’t distinguish between them in which case the difference surely doesn’t matter.

  • leli says:

    I agree on the whole – hard to fault your logic – and yet it’s a pity if people in Mackintosh’s home city feel weary of his innovative style because they see it endlessly echoed on dull souvenirs and knick-knacks.

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