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Our Skills for the Future Trainee Cat Doyle continues with her research in ‘The First International Exhibition of Decorative Art’.

There are still a number of exciting contemporary art events happening as the Glasgow International Festival draws to a close and the GSA Learning Resources team thought we’d get on board! Visit our new display of archives and special collections material on level two of the library or check out our Pinterest board to see that Glasgow is no stranger to international exhibitions…

Principle Building for the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art in Turin 1902, Designed by Raimondo D'Aronco, The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections, (Archive Reference GSAA/EPH/8/10-11)

Principle Building for the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art in Turin 1902, Designed by Raimondo D’Aronco, The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections, (Archive Reference: GSAA/EPH/8/10-11)

Over 100 years ago, the unique artistic reputation that we know Glasgow to have today was just beginning to be recognised. Significant to this was Director Francis Newbery’s innovative introduction of decorative art classes in The Glasgow School of Art’s curriculum in the early 1890s. These classes introduced students to alternative techniques such as metalwork, enamels and embroidery, processes which can also be seen in the definitive interior designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. This period also saw the work of Mackintosh and his art school associates beginning to be exposed throughout the UK and Europe in prestigious art journals such as The Studio Magazine, and the German Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration.

Cover of Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, Volume 5, 11, The Glasgow School of Art Library

Cover of Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, Volume 5, 11, The Glasgow School of Art Library

Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his art school associates, some of whom exhibited at Turin, c1893, The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections, Archive reference DC/004/9.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his art school associates, some of whom exhibited at Turin, c1893, The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections (Archive reference: DC/004/9)

At the turn of the 20th century, a number of opportunities to exhibit on the continent arose for these artists. It was no surprise therefore that when the Italian Royal Family commissioned the first International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art in Turin in 1902, Francis Newbery appointed Mackintosh responsible for designing the Scottish rooms.

Entrance to the Scottish Pavilion showing banners by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. These banners are now part of the Mackintosh collection at Glasgow University’s Hunterian Museum. Image courtesy of Torino 1902: Le Arti Decorative Internazionali Del Nuovo Secol, p.530.

Entrance to the Scottish Pavilion showing banners by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. These banners are now part of the Mackintosh collection at Glasgow University’s Hunterian Museum. Image courtesy of Torino 1902: Le Arti Decorative Internazionali Del Nuovo Secol, p.530

Printed reproduction of banner, 1981, The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections, Archive reference NMC/1592.

Printed reproduction of banner, 1981, The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections (Archive reference: NMC/1592)

Newbery supervised the Scottish section and was recognised with the award of a Cross of a Knight Officer of the Order of the Crown of Italy for his contribution.

Cross of a Knight Officer Medal and Tie Pin awarded to Newbery, The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections, Archive reference NMC 900.

Cross of a Knight Officer Medal and Tie Pin awarded to Newbery, The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections (Archive reference: NMC/900)

The Scottish section consisted of three rooms, built by the exhibition architect Raimondo D’Aronco and adapted by Mackintosh to suit the Scottish work. The first of these was named the Rose Boudoir and was devoted entirely to the work of the Mackintoshes. Showcased were gesso and embroidered panels by Margaret Macdonald alongside furniture and decorative glass and metalwork by Mackintosh. Also exhibited were his designs for the House for an Art Lover competition. The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections Mackintosh Art, Design and Architecture Collection now holds several of these items.

The second room was dedicated to the Mackintoshes close friends Herbert and Frances McNair whom they had exhibited alongside previously in Vienna in 1900. The papers of the McNairs in the GSA ephemera collection give a fascinating insight into their plans for what was to be exhibited.

Handwritten list of items to be exhibited by Frances and Herbert McNair, c.1900, The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections (Archive reference: GSAA/EPH/8/1-4)

Handwritten list of items to be exhibited by Frances and Herbert McNair, c.1900, The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections (Archive reference: GSAA/EPH/8/1-4)

The final room consisted of work by The Glasgow School of Art’s staff and students. Although the work of these artists varied in material and technique, the Glasgow Style was consistently evident. Several of the applications, as well as work by some of the artists, can be found in the archives and collections.

Unfortunately the Glasgow Style began to become less well received in Europe in the years following the Turin exhibition. However, by this point The Glasgow School of Art had firmly established itself as one of the leading art schools within the UK and across Europe.

Still interested? This display is only a taster of the material that the archives and collections holds. Get in touch to find out more at archive@gsa.ac.uk.

Decorative Art Poster by Leonardo Bistolfi exhibited at Turin in 1902, The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections (Archive reference: NMC/980)

Decorative Art Poster by Leonardo Bistolfi exhibited at Turin in 1902, The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections (Archive reference: NMC/980)

Resources Used

Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement by Thomas Howarth, 1952.

Four Studies on Charles Rennie Mackintosh, New York School of Interior Design, 1996.

The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections, Art, Design and Architecture collection, 13th century-2014.

The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections, Mackintosh Art, Design and Architecture Collection, 1891-1985

The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections, Records of The Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, Scotland, 15th century-2014.

Mackintosh Architecture

Torino 1902: Le Arti Decorative Internazionali Del Nuovo Secolo, Fabbri Editori, 1994.