Suitcase and World: Scotland's City of Art and Architecture. Glasgow.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Scotland's City of Art and Architecture. Glasgow.

Shadow Hand Puppets, Cowcaddens Underpass. Street Mural by Rogue One (aka Bobby McNamara) in collaboration with Art Pistol.
(Photo from the City Centre Mural Trail website.)

We will arrive into Glasgow by train from Aberdeen after spending a week in Shetland and Orkney.  I started researching Glasgow by looking for Airbnb apartments for us to stay in and noticed that there weren't all that many tourist sites to see that were not either castles or palaces or gardens.  Not that I don't like castles, palaces or gardens but Scotland is so full of these that coming to Glasgow to just see more did not thrill me one bit. 

So, I mentioned this to Pat and she agreed on the "not being thrilled to be in yet another city part" of my sentence and then mentioned back to me that she would be interested in seeing the works of Charles Mackintosh.  Who?  So I Googled the name and what I learned was finally something that gave me reason to want to visit Glasgow at all.

As it turns out turns out that Glasgow is heralded as the UK's culture capital and Mackintosh is a much beloved historic figure in the world of Glaswegian art and architecture.  

So, just who was Charles Rennie Mackintosh? Charles Rennie Mackintosh was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1868. By the time of his death in 1928, he had become a well known architect, designer, water colorist and artist.
His Modernist-meets-Art-Nouveau design aesthetic captured Europe’s imagination.  Considered to be one of the most significant architects of the early 20th century, Mackintosh designed a number of buildings that dot the city’s landscape. But like so many figures in the art world,  Mackintosh was never fully appreciated for his contributions until after his death.

As a child, he suffered from disabilities that lasted a lifetime. He walked with a limp and developed a problem with his right eye which caused it to droop. Because of this, Charles was encouraged to spend time in the countryside when he was young. It was his love of the countryside and flora which was to manifest itself later in his life.

Mackintosh enrolled at the Glasgow School of Art at the age of fifteen and a year later he would join an architectural firm to train as a draughtsman. A few years later, he returned back to the Glasgow School of Art to continue his studies. It was here that Charles Rennie Mackintosh met fellow artist Margaret MacDonald who would later become his wife. Margaret and her sister Frances would have a profound influence on his life. Frances would marry fellow artist Herbert MacNair and the two couples became known as the ‘The Four’ and formed the ‘Glasgow Style’. Their works of design and art were influential on various European art movements of their time, including Art Nouveau.

Mackintosh's architectural career was a relatively short one with all of his  major commissions taking place were between 1895 and 1906 including designs for private homes, commercial buildings, interior renovations and churches.  Here's a list of a few of his architectural works in Glasgow.

We’ll have opportunity to learn more about Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife Margaret as I have signed us up for a tour at the Willow Tea Rooms.  The Willow Tea Rooms were commissioned by Kate Cranston, who was a leading developer of tea rooms in Glasgow.  She was also one of Mackintosh's major patrons.  In 2017, a very rare ebonized sycamore and canvas side chair designed by Mackintosh for Kate Cranston’s home sold for $576,500 at Sotheby’s New York. It's one example of his beautiful design work - very modern and timeless for something that is more than 100 years old!

Later in the afternoon, we'll be treating ourselves to high tea in the Salon Luxe at the Willow Tea Rooms which I am very much looking forward to because I cannot remember the last time I had high tea.  In fact, have I ever had high tea??  We're even springing the extra £5 to have our high tea in the Salon Luxe room which was designed by Mackintosh - room, furniture and even the utensils.  I think I read somewhere that Margaret did much of the decoration.  We'll learn more on our Mackintosh day in Glasgow!

Continuing my research on Glasgow, I stumbled across the City Center Mural Trail website where you can see all the current works of art and most importantly, download the walking map.  What I saw on the site was just up my alley....literally.   The street murals scattered around a very walkable section of the city.  I love city trails like this because if you follow them, you basically get a free, guided walk around the city.

Spearheaded by the City Centre Regeneration team within Glasgow City Council as part of its City Centre Strategy, the City Center Mural Trail is part of the city's ongoing efforts to promote the city center, reduce the negative visual impact of land and unit vacancies due to the current economic circumstances, and provide features that will attract more visitors to the city.  Local artists are encouraged to get involved to help generate local art activity. The artworks have more recently become unique pieces of art in their own right and have generated positive feedback from the public as well as local businesses.

The huge range of artwork on display has something to suit all tastes - conservative to radical, quirky to bizarre.

The murals have been produced on buildings, vacant shop units, and on hoardings around vacant land. The first art work was produced in 2008 and this portfolio of completed works has expanded since and continues to expand.

Two of the street mural artists that I am particularly interested to see the works of are Smug (aka Sam Bates) who is actually an Australian but who is now based in Glasgow and Rogue One (aka Bobby McNamara) who is a very popular street muralist from Glasgow. 

Rogue One's work work, Shadow Hand Puppets, opens this blog post.  Our Airbnb apartment is just a few blocks away so I will definitely find my way to the Cowcaddens Underpass to see his work of art.  Below is a set of images from the Art Pistol website showing Rogue One conceiving his work of art.  Art Pistol is a gallery that represents street artists, including Rogue One.

Another of Rogue One's works is also on the Mural Trail.  It's simply titled, the "World's Most Economical Taxi".  The brick wall is not real brick.  Rogue One painted it because he wanted a brick wall for the background for his floating taxi.  Simple as that.  I will be taking a closer look at the brick for sure and to see if I can spot Rogue One's signature!  To keep up with his street and gallery works, you can follow Rogue One on Instagram or Facebook.

Photo from

Smug or Smug One as he's sometimes known by is a street muralist that specializes in photorealism which another of my favorite street artists, world reknown Brazilian street muralist, Eduardo Kobra, also does.  Perhaps I'm attracted to the photographic quality of their work though when you realize that they do it with spray cans of paint makes it all the more impressive.  Smug has several works of art on the Mural Trail.

One is titled, "Honey...I Shrunk the kids and it depicts a girl with a magnifying glass who appears to be picking up an object off the street.

His most recent work is one that depicts a modernday St Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow and referenced the story of The Bird That Never Flew.

Just around the corner from the modern day, St Mungo is the complementary mural depicting St. Enoch and Child.  St. Enoch was the mother of St. Mungo.  This mural is a contemporary interpretation of the city's founding story - St Thenue/Enoch cradling her beloved St Kentigern/Mungo.

Last but not least, there is the piece titled, "Fellow Glasgow Residents" that shows all types of animals found in Glasgow’s parks and green space appearing through what looks like holes in the wall.

Follow Smug (where he posts up as Smug One) on Instagram.

You can watch a video about the Glasgow City Centre Mural Trail - it includes interviews with Rogue One and Smug.

There are many, many more street murals in Glasgow than the ones on the City Centre Mural Trail.  You can find the list, along with an interactive map, at the streetart360 website.

And to close out the post, here are my maps for Glasgow.  The first pinpoints the Charles Rennie Mackintosh sites that I think we would be interested in at least walking by. The second is a map of the Mural Trail plus a couple of the other landmark places that we could go to if we are interested.