Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's sketches of Northern Italy

The Glasgow School of Art has developed a wonderful website which allows us to see the sketches of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928). 

I adore Mackintosh's drawing style and can stare at his drawings and sketches and paintings for hours and hours - so finding this site is very special for me!

The Northern Italian Sketchbook is a comprehensive website, created by Glasgow Arts Scool and funded by The Arts and Humanities Research Council [AHRC], offering:
Follow the links (above) to explore Northern Italy through the eyes of the celebrated Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) during his sketching tour of the Continent in 1891. Compare his superb sketches with present-day photographs from the same locations, and retrace his steps with our interactive 19th century Baedeker maps

The Sketchbook contains drawings from the later part of Mackintosh's tour, beginning with Verona. It covers
Como, Cathedral, studies of window and two finials
Charle Rennie Mackintosh - Northern Italian Sketchbook
  • Milan (28 June-6 July); 
  • Pavia (7 July-?); 
  • Certosa di Pavia ( probably several days around 12 July); 
  • Paris and Chateau d'Ecouen (late July?); 
  • Antwerp (late July?). 
It also contains several pages of designs for the Glasgow Art Club (1892-3) and the Glasgow Herald Building (1893-5).

If you use the search facility, it also shows you photos of the place today.

Most of the sketches are in pencil and some are now a tad faint.  However there are a few where colour has been added in watercolour.  He doesn't draw people - he draws buildings and most particularly he draws bits of buildings.  He's working out how the structure and ornamentation work.

What I like about is as a facsimile sketchbook is it shows you exactly what a real sketchbook looks like - even one kept by somebody who is technically very proficient at drawing.  It has all the unfinished sketches and the ones that went wrong and the bits of this and that which make it very real for me.  It's also very apparent, as one might expect, that he loves drawing architectural details.  He fills pages with unpicking and reassembling the twirly bits!

Finally, I have to add that I am very impressed by the Glasgow School of Art.  They appear to be one of the few art schools in the UK which have really grasped the potential of IT and the internet for sharing the riches of our artistic heritage.  Often, people start out on a path to learning about art because of the images they have seen and have been able to study.  I'm very grateful for their enlightened approach which allows others to share  and be inspired by Mackintosh's talents and skills in drawing.



  1. thanks so much for this wonderful link .. i've always love Charles Rennie Mackinkintosh's watercolours and architecture...we live in the north of italy so will enjoy looking at his wonderful sketches on-line.

  2. thanks for this post Katherine! I LOVE his sketches as well and have a number of books on him (both art and architecture) Don't have time to explore the site but will do when I get back....

  3. You are not going to be in the least bit surprised that I am so excited to discover this site, Katherine. As ever many, many thanks for your amazing ability to find internet treasure.

    Now, of course, I'm hoping they may eventually include Mackintosh's sketchbook from the southern part of Italy which would be much more familiar.


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