Glasgow continued 2

Charles Rennie Mackintosh
“I first wrote occasional pieces on Mackintosh 40 years ago, initially when his little Martyrs’ School was threatened with demolition for city-centre motorway, when Thomas Howarth was republishing his early biography, and as Mackintosh’s own house was being strangely reconstructed one street away from its original site. Having written a book on architectural drawing, I was commissioned to produce one on Mackintosh’s drawings, but the publishing house was bought out and the project vanished.

By 1990 I was convinced there was space for a big pictorial book to introduce Alexander Thomson, Glasgow’s greatest architect, to a wider public. The publisher Colin Baxter promised he would do that if, first, I agreed to write on Mackintosh for him.
My ‘pocket guide’ proved valuable and has been in print continuously for two decades. I wrote about The Hill House for the blind and then in the catalogue of the major international Mackintosh exhibition in the 1990s.  In 2001, my big book on Mackintosh, produced with Colin’s photography for Lomond, attempted something new: to see Mackintosh’s life as a whole and try to form some coherent sense from that. From that work, and further study of Aspergers Syndrome and the psychology of perception, I have developed a thesis relating Mackintosh’s personality and abilities to his design and, particularly, painting output.

‘Who was C R Mackintosh?’ was given as the annual lecture to the James MacLaren Society, Fortingall, Perthshire, May, 2009 and then at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society headquarters in November. Further refined, it was delivered to The Regency Society of Brighton and Hove and then CRM Society in London and later to the CRM Society in Bath, October and to the CRM Society, York, November 2010.

A study of Mackintosh as Interior Architect had been commissioned by Colin Baxter for production in 2005, but put to one side. I am keen to resurrect this project which, I hope, will be an original study. The subject does not seem to have been looked at as a whole, and my plan grows from enthusiastic responses to my lecture (first given at the invitation of 20th Century Society) on the subject. Mackintosh’s work of all other sorts – from flower drawings to furniture, from French paintings to the architecture generally, are now exhaustively published. His works in interior architecture are not; and they remain, I argue, his most original contribution.

Mackintosh : a John McKean bibliography with links

Mack the architect: RIBA exhibition is a blast against ‘the icy perfections of the mere stylist’, Journal of the RIBA, February 2015, found here

Charles Rennie Mackintosh, review of James Macaulay’s book of that name,  Building Design Online, 16 July 2010, found here

Report on Symposium celebrating centenary of completion of the Glasgow School of Art, Building Design, January 2010, republished in Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society Newsletter, December 2010

Who was C R Mackintosh? A talk relating his personality and abilities to his design and (particularly) painting output. Given as the annual lecture to the James MacLaren Society, Fortingall, Perthshire, May, 2009 (partially published by them, paper only, July 2018) and then given at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society headquarters in November 2009. Further refined, it was delivered to The Regency Society of Brighton and Hove and then CRM Society in London and later to the CRM Society in Bath, October 2010, to the CRM Society, York, November 2010.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh Talk to Wirksworth Festival, Derbyshire, 7th September 2002

C R Mackintosh – another frame, paper to The University of Strathclyde, 5 April 2001 (growing from research on C R Mackintosh and the possibility of his having Aspergers Syndrome)

‘The artist’s life: notes on looking at C. R. Mackintosh’, arq (architectural research quarterly), Vol 5, No 4, 2001, pp 380 – 2  Essay on Mackintosh and Aspergers, condensed from the lecture at Strathclyde      “Your CRM paper is a good and vivid piece of writing. I enjoyed re-reading it and felt convinced of the validity of your approach for the book even regardless of the merits of the evidence – which, for what it is worth, also seemed pretty convincing to me.” (Charles Rattray, ‘Insight’ editor, architectural research quarterly, 11 January 2002)

Charles Rennie Mackintosh : Architect, artist, icon (2000, 2001), Lomond Books, Edinburgh, (and Voyageur Press, USA) 

Best Seller List, No 5 in ‘Art Books’, The Guardian, Saturday 25 November 2000; The Observer, 26 November 2000

‘Book of the year’, one of 20 books chosen as Books of the Year by The Architects’ Journal, 20/27 December 2001

‘Professor McKean has achieved this task [to weave his personality together] with an enviable fluency . …The portrait has been completed with a sure hand. … Professor McKean has gone a long way to forging a link with Mackintosh’s personality…’ Hugh Macdonald, literary editor, The Herald (Glasgow) 13.10.00

‘It might appear as yet another assemblage of pretty pictures designed to appeal to the general reader. It is, in fact, something more. The book is extremely well-written, with a vivid immediacy. The author highlights a series of key events and issues which help us better to understand this enigmatic Glaswegian genius. I cannot recall any previous account which presents so effectively the real enigma of Mackintosh’. Kenneth Powell, The Architects’ Journal, 5 April 2001 p 58

‘Do we really need another book on the mythical genius of Glasgow? There are so many already, after all, to fuel the Mockintosh industry. Fortunately, in this case, there is much sympathy here for the difficult artist who blew it… and there are new insights here. One novel interpretation has already generated controversy – the notion that perhaps Mackintosh’s increasingly morose introspectiveness was not so much owing to alcohol but to Aspergers Syndrome – an interesting thought if a tendentious one in attempting a diagnosis in an adult who died over 70 years ago.’ Gavin Stamp, ‘The Twentieth Century Society Newsletter’, January 2001

‘Professor McKean’s eloquent text is perceptive, intuitive, almost poetic in places. There is also an heroic attempt through personal reminiscences and acute observations to unravel the many complex relationships that surround Mackintosh’s life both private and personal. This intuitive approach certainly affords insights into many troubling areas of the artist’s career. ‘This well-crafted edifice certainly adds flashes of insight and understanding. As to solving the eternal enigma, perhaps that is too big a task to deal with in retrospect. There will not, however, be many more eloquent or more comprehensively illustrated attempts.’ Anne Ellis, Mackintosh expert, ‘CRM Society Newsletter’, March 2001

Charles Rennie Mackintosh (an introduction)Lomond Books, Edinburgh, 1999 “The text I find very satisfying, complementing the pictures and providing an excellent commentary on Mackintosh’s work. Anyone coming to the Mackintosh phenomenon for the first time will get an excellent, if brief, summary of his life as well as an introduction to his building design philosophy – of creating a building from the inside first before worrying about the outside.” Drew Sommerville, from review in the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society Newsletter (No.77, Winter1999)

The fragmented life of C R Mackintosh, Lecture to the Friends of 78 Derngate (CRM’s house), Northampton, October 1999.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh – Interior Architect?, Opening lecture in The Twentieth Century Society’s 1998-9 winter series on Interior Architecture.

‘Stylish scrapbook disregards space’, review of Charles Rennie Mackintosh CDROM, The Architects’ Journal, Vol 208, no 5, 30 July 1998, p. 51

Charles Rennie Mackintosh : Pocket Guide(1998, latest revised edition 2018) Colin Baxter Photography Ltd, Grantown-on-Spey, 1998″John McKean’s descriptive commentaries of tours round some of the buildings make interesting reading, even for those who are already familiar with them.[…] This is a lovely little book, and with its unusual detailed descriptions will be enjoyable as a reference as well as useful.” Nicky Brunnschweiler, from review in the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society Newsletter (No. 75, Spring 1999): Comments on manuscript text, January 1998 include: “It will be a very useful addition”, Daniel Robbins, Glasgow Museums, co-ordinator of the CRM 1996-7 Exhibition “Makes fascinating reading” … “I must compliment you on the thoroughness of your research.” Patricia Douglas, Director Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society “Overall I think it is very good and certainly will fill a need in the marketplace. There are some fine descriptive moments and telling insights which I enjoyed.” Pamela Robertson, CRM Curator, Hunterian Museum University of Glasgow

‘C R Mackintosh experience’, Member of team bidding for the permanent CRM exhibition in The Lighthouse, Glasgow (unsuccessful), 1997

‘Mackintosh e la casa sulla collina’ – ‘The Artist of Modern Life: Charles Rennie Mackintosh at The Hill House’ in Spazio e Società (Milano) , No. 71, July – September 1995, 54 – 69. Published in Italian and English

‘The Hill House’ (1996) in W. Kaplan (ed.) Charles Rennie Mackintosh, (book and exhibition catalogue), Abbeville Press with the Metropolitan Museum (NY) and Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries

‘The Hill House, by C R Mackintosh’, Chapter in The Living Painting Trust’s Album 12: The Second Architecture Album for the Blind. 1994

‘The whole egg: yolk, white – and shell’, feature review of D. Brett Charles Rennie Mackintosh :The Poetics of Workmanship in The Architects’ Journal, March 1992

Drawings of Charles Rennie Mackintosh  Book commissioned in 1987 by The Architectural Press; to be a portfolio of drawings with brief introductory text. Abandoned on AP Books being bought out by Butterworth, 1988

‘Unpredictable weather: keep hold of your Mackintoshes’, feature in Architectural Design, February, 1979 p50-51.

‘Mackintosh: revival and reality’, Design Magazine, December 1978.

Review of the revised edition of T. Howarth Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement, Design Magazine, October,1978 p. 346.

Various articles on C. R. Mackintosh and threats to his buildings between 1971 and 1975, notably Martyrs School, especially in The Architects’ Journal , 20 March 1974.


Anyway,  I did my part of the ‘if-Mackintosh-then-Thomson’ bargain, and enjoyed it. But …  John’s tale continues  here.