EDINBURGH, U.K. – A group of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) watercolors and drawings sold on behalf of the Glasgow Art Club excelled at Lyon & Turnbull on October 11. The cache of seven works on paper, including four flower studies, had belonged to William Meldrum, Mackintosh’s friend and fellow student at the Glasgow School of Art in the 1880s. They formed part of the 1933 Mackintosh memorial exhibition in the MacLellan Galleries on Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street and were given to the Glasgow Art Club in 1984. In short, they were appearing on the market for the very first time.
Mackintosh began creating pencil-on-paper flower sketches as far back as his student days in the 1880s. The 10.2 by 7.8in pencil drawing Anemonie is one such early example. He notes in the cartouche that the plant was found at Lamlash on Arran in 1893, pressed, and then sketched three years later in 1896. It was modestly estimated at £4,000-£6,000 but hammered for £30,000 and sold for £39,300 ($48,350).
It was during a 10-month period in 1914-15, that Mackintosh – who had left his architectural practice in Glasgow under a cloud – created a celebrated series of botanical watercolor studies at Walberswick in Suffolk, England. One contemporary suggested Mackintosh produced them for a book commissioned by a German publisher (a project shelved after the outbreak of war), but it was also an opportunity to re-sharpen his artistic vision.
The 12 by 9in pencil and watercolor Lavender, Walberswick, dated 1915, is one of around 30-40 finished works painted at the tranquil coast village. The most detailed of the sketches offered, it was signed with both the artist’s initials and those of his wife Margaret Mackintosh, denoting, like a diary entry, that she was present when it was drawn. It, too, flew well above its estimate, hammering at £30,000 and selling for £39,300 ($48,350).
Leading the sale by hammering for £32,000 and selling for £41,920 ($51,500) against an estimate of £15,000-£20,000 ($18,400-$24,600) was one of a small handful of surviving cross-culture objects created by the architect-designer William Burges (1827-1881) for his own enjoyment. As inscribed to the gilt metal mount, this archaic Chinese gui-form jade censer later inlaid with colored glass and gemstone cabochons was made for Burges with funds received from the completion of a commission in Scotland in 1870. The job was to design a stone reredos for the high altar of St Michael and All Saints Episcopal Church in Edinburgh – the only work he completed in the city.
This remarkable bowl was part of the furnishings at Burges’ London home Tower House and was later on loan to the National Museum of Wales from 1931 to 1953. It first appeared at auction in 2012, when it sold for £34,000 ($41,800) at Dreweatts, but was last sold at auction at Sotheby’s in 2013, when it made a more modest £15,000 ($18,400). It was recently part of the collection of the U.S. musician John Gilbert Getty (1968-2020).