Friday, July 31, 2009

Margaret Macdonald Summer stained DESIGN

Margaret Macdonald's sketch for a potential stained glass window composition, is a perfect example of her individual approach to art and design.

The piece was designed in 1894 and was called Summer. Although the window was never commissioned, and therefore never became a reality, it is an example of Macdonald's early maturity as a uniquely individual artist and designer and shows quite clearly that she had a fully formed style long before she came under the umbrella of the 'Mackintosh look' of her husband to be, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Macdonald created the design at the Glasgow School of Art for a local design competition. The piece won her the competition, which says much about her ability as a student, but also tells us much more about the standard that Francis Newbery had managed to achieve for the School since becoming its head in 1885. It was the high level of art and design training that Newbery had managed to both achieve and sustain, that made students with obvious individual talents such as Macdonald, flourish in the creative atmosphere of the Glasgow School of Art. A feat that many other colleges and schools throughout Britain were envious to emulate.

In this stained glass design, Macdonald does not use harsh or glaring colour tones and for a composition entitled Summer there is a remarkable predominance of greens and blues, rather than say reds and oranges. However, the use of colour tones become obvious when the composition is explained. The design incorporates the joining of earth and sky, organic life and sunlight, with the earth being represented as a woman in partial plant form and the sky by that of a glowing man. They are both rapt in a passionate embrace and kiss. It is an obvious Symbolist influenced piece of work, though within the natural style of Macdonald.

Although the style of this design piece does incorporate some of the long willowy, somewhat melancholy features that we now associate with the early style of Margaret and her sister Frances, it is also apparent that this particular design is much more sophisticated and commercial than previous work, and although it was never placed within a domestic setting, it could easily have stood comparison with the best of contemporary stained glass work of the end of the nineteenth, and more importantly the beginning of the twentieth century.
Posted by John hopper at 16:12
Labels: 1890s, art nouveau, arts and crafts, charles rennie mackintosh, francis newbery, glasgow, margaret macdonald, stained glass

Hels said...

I am reluctant to write this because Macdonald's design if very beautifully drafted back in 1894. But does the skeletal nature of the arms and hands not remind you, much later, of German expressionism?

One example will do. The twisted body shapes and the expressive line that characterised Egon Schiele's paintings and drawings were typical.

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