Stylefurn - Best of Design Bauhaus Design & Büro Möbel Office Bauhaus Furniture Designerscout
Designer Furniture Reproductions e.g. from Eames, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Arne Jacobsen, Pierre Paulin, Eero Saarinen, Eileen Gray, Eero Aarnio, Marcel Breuer, amm.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh Argyle chair Stylefurn - Best of Design Bauhaus Design & Büro Möbel Office Bauhaus Furniture Designerscout Designer Furniture Reproductions
Charles Rennie Mackintosh Argyle chair buy now at: www.bauhausfurniture.net
Argyle Chair by Charles R. Mackintosh
Full details Reproduced courtesy of Powerhouse Museum
Creator: Charles Rennie Mackintosh, designer, 1898–99
TLF ID: R5725
Source: Powerhouse Museum, /http://www.powerhousemuseum.com
Digital resource description: This is the 'Argyle' chair, which was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1898–99. Measuring 136.5 cm high x 51.0 cm x 46.0 cm, the chair is made of dark stained oak with a rush seat. It has a very high back consisting of two back splats at its centre and two tapered stiles at either side. An oval-shaped top rail extends between and beyond the stiles. This rail is decorated with a stylised bird motif pierced in an arch across the centre top. The stretcher between the back legs consists of a wide oak panel that is arched at its lower edge. There are also double rod stretchers between the slightly tapered front legs and between the front and back legs. The drop-in rush seat is set above arched seat rails.
Educational value: The 'Argyle' chair is a significant work by the influential Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1928). Mackintosh studied design at the Glasgow School of Art. From 1889 to 1913 he undertook architectural work and some furniture design, including a commissioned project for the Argyle Street tea rooms. While his work attracted interest and acclaim in Europe, Mackintosh found few supporters in Scotland and moved to London in 1913. His greatest influence was felt in Europe, particularly in the innovative work of the Weiner Werkstätte and the Bauhaus groups. The pre-eminent international architect Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969) described Mackintosh as a 'purifier in the field of architecture'.
This chair, dating from around 1898–99, formed part of the first major private commission in Mackintosh's career, the furniture for the Luncheon Room of Catherine Cranston's Argyle Street tea rooms in Glasgow. Over a 20-year period between 1897 and 1917, Mackintosh designed or restyled rooms in all four of Cranston's Glasgow tea room establishments. These designs included wall murals, furniture, furnishings and room dividers (screens) made in a variety of novel materials such as mirrors, silver and leadlight. Other significant architectural and design commissions included the Glasgow School of Art (1899 and 1907), The Hill House, Helensburgh (1903–04) and 78 Derngate, Northampton (1916–19).
The chair's design had a strong influence on the course of European design – the 'Argyle' chair was shown at the Eighth Exhibition of the Vienna Secession held in Austria in 1900. Mackintosh's highly individual style strongly influenced and contributed to the development of work at the Wiener Werkstätte ('Vienna Workshop', founded 1903, specialising in design characterised by simple shapes, minimum decoration and geometric patterns).
The chair represents a significant development in Mackintosh's work, as it was the first time he extended the back of the chair both below and above the seat. The tapered supports and exaggerated height of the backrest anticipated many of Mackintosh's later designs. The oval-shaped form pierced by a cut-out profile of a bird (the first time he had featured a chair top rail in this way) is a visual motif that Mackintosh repeated in a number of later works.
Mackintosh's intuitive feeling for form is apparent, with the extreme contrast between the low-slung square seat and the towering backrest with its oval-shaped headrest creating a strong sense of visual drama. As the Argyle tea rooms had very high ceilings, Mackintosh raised the height of the backrests to ensure that the chairs made a dramatic statement within the room.
Elements of different design traditions are combined in the chair, particularly those of the Arts and Crafts Movement and Art Nouveau. The rush seating reflects trends associated with the later 19th-century Arts and Crafts Movement, which valued folk traditions and the use of plain natural finishes and rural crafts such as woven rush panelling. The elongated back, the tapering uprights, the curvature of the lower back leg and the inner back panel reflect the influence of Art Nouveau on Mackintosh's work.
The bold exchange of positive and negative spaces within the backrest structure expresses the designer's feeling for the principle of contrast between 'solid and void', which is integral to traditional Japanese architecture and domestic design. Many turn-of-the-20th-century designers, including Mackintosh, looked to Japanese design traditions as an antidote to what they saw as an excess of ornamentation and recycling of historical styles in much European interior design of the period.
The 'Argyle' chair references the social status of tea rooms, a feature of social life in Glasgow at the time, where people of different classes could meet and relax and, in an era when the temperance movement was very strong, enjoy a cup of tea and other non-alcoholic refreshments. Two of Catherine Cranston's Glasgow tea rooms (Sauciehall and Buchanan streets) have been reconstructed to showcase Mackintosh's designs; they are now known as the Willow Tea Rooms.
Keywords: Art Nouveau, Chairs, Decorative arts, Furniture design, Interior decoration
Rights: © Curriculum Corporation and Powerhouse Museum, 2006, except where indicated under Acknowledgements