Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Italian Sketchbook, 1891

Scope and Content

The sketchbook consists of 81 pages of sketches made by Charles Rennie Mackintosh during his trip to Italy in 1891 funded by his Greek Thomson prize money. The subjects he sketched are mainly architectural, with the one he felt to be most impressive being labelled A Caution' . Each sketch is labelled with the name of the city or town in which it was sketched. Sketches were made in Verona, Mantua, Brescia, Cremona, Lake Como, Bergamo, Como, Milan, Padua and Pavia. His trip also took him via Antwerp, Paris and Glasgow from which sketches also survive in the book.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was born in Glasgow on 7 June 1868. He was educated at Allen Glen's School, Glasgow where he showed an interest in walking and sketching. He always intended to become an architect, and in 1884 entered as an apprentice the of John Hutchinson as an apprentice. At the same time he started taking evening classes at the Glasgow School of Art. As a student he won various prizes, including several medals, and the Greek Thomson' travelling scholarship, which took him to France and Italy in 1891. In 1889, he became a draughtsman in the prosperous firm of Honeyman and Keppie.

The original, exciting, short-lived Art Nouveau' movement of the 1890s saw Mackinstosh emerge as a leading figure on the Glasgow art scene. The style was a protest against the stuffiness of Victorian design, and being revolutionary' and decadent' , it appealed immediately to clever young people.

Mackintosh met Herbert McNair and the sisters, Frances and Margaret MacDonald, at the Glasgow School of Art. Together they formed a group called the Four' , very intense and poetic, and very active in all sorts of experiments in craft work and graphic design. They exhibited together in London in 1896, and attracted the influential Studio magazine, first published in 1893.

In 1896, a competition was held to design a new building for the Glasgow School of Art on a site on Renfrew street. The firm of Honeyman and Keppie submitted a design from the hand of Mackintosh which won the competition.

At the same time as overseeing the building for the School of Art, Mackintosh was busy with Interior Design and Exhibition work. He was also receiving commissions to decorate the interiors of local businesses and in 1898 his designs received great praise at the International Exhibition in Munich.

In 1903, he completed the Willow Tea Rooms. The tea rooms design was inspired by Rossetti's sonnet O Ye, all ye that walk in Willow Wood' and which saw art and mysticism wedded to commerce for the first time.

In 1904, Mackintosh became a partner in the firm Honeyman and Keppie and designed Scotland Street School. 1907 saw the erection of the western half of the School of Art which was completed in 1909, representing Mackintosh's swan song as an architect.

He continue to design tea rooms and furniture but began to find things too much for him. Temperamental weaknesses were affecting his daily life. Always nervous and some what irritable he began to find the office routine unbearable. He had trouble with the plans for the Scotland Street School and the Governors of the School of Art obstructed his plans for the completion of the School. His work began to suffer and his health give way. In 1913, he resigned from the firm and left the city of Glasgow.

He spent sometime living in Walberswick, Suffolk but settled in Chelsea, London in 1915. Yet in wartime London he received no worthwhile commissions and lacked the contacts that he had had in Glasgow. Even so, he produced over 40 fine watercolours, landscape and flower pieces. His health grew steadily worse and in 1928 he died in London of throat cancer.

Source: Glasgow School of Art, Charles Rennie Mackintosh


There is no apparent system of arrangement.

Access Information


Glasgow School of Art Archives are open for research Monday to Friday, 9.30am-12.00 and 2.00-5.00pm, by appointment only.

Acquisition Information

Transferred from the Mackintosh Library to the care of the Archives, November 2000.

Other Finding Aids

No other finding aids available.

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the GSA Archivist.

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard procedures.

Custodial History

The custodial history of the sketchbook is unknown but it is believed to have been found in a refuse skip. It was then in the care of the Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Library who had the sketchbook bound and a special case made to protect it.


None expected

Related Material

Other Mackintosh material can be found within the archives of GSA. The GSA archive holds his designs and work relating to the building of the Renfrew Street building. A sketchbook of flowers and furniture designs can be fond within the Keppie collection (DC 04). Other Mackintosh material is available at the following places.

GB 0247 Correspondence and papers of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1891-1927 (Glasgow University Library Special Collections)

GB 1696 Correspondence, a diary and a large collection of original artwork (Glasgow University: Hunterian Museum)

GB 0429 Miscellaneous manuscripts and drawings (Strathclyde University Archives)


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