High-backed chair for the Argyle Street Tea Rooms

About this object

While Mackintosh was developing his innovative graphic style, he also worked on designing new buildings, interior decoration and furniture. Furniture became a major part of his output. This stained oak chair, designed in 1898 for the Argyle Street tea rooms in Glasgow, is well ahead of its time. It was the first of Mackintosh's iconic 'high-backed chairs'. At the top of it, notice again the arc of the stylised flying bird, cut out of the oval, which frames the user's head when seated.

The chair is made very much in the 'arts and crafts' tradition influenced by the ideas of designer William Morris, who famously said “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” At the same time the chair is very much Mackintosh's own distinctive creation.

Mackintosh designed all the furniture for the Argyle Street tea rooms. On this project he worked alongside established interior designer George Walton, who created the overall decorative scheme. They had worked together before and in 1902, influential German architect Hermann Muthesius noted the impact of their work saying, “They portrayed not just the best of interior design in Scotland, but in the whole of Britain.”

The Argyle Street tea rooms were owned by Miss Catherine Cranston. Her successful chain of Glasgow tearooms was a well known place for the middle classes to socialise and she soon became Mackintosh's most important and supportive patron.
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