{Artist} Margaret MacDonald

Margaret MacDonald (5th of November 1865 - 10th of January 1933) is not as well known as many other artists, sometimes getting cast in the shadows of her husband Charles Rennie Mackintosh. But, she was one of the most gifted and successful female Art Nouveau artists in Scotland at the turn of the century. She created a wide range of watercolours, graphics, metalwork and textiles. Her greatest achievements no doubt were in gesso, a plaster-based medium, which she used to make decorative panels for furniture and interiors.

Margaret was born in England and came to Glasgow with her family around 1890. She became a student at the Glasgow School of Art with her sister Francis, where she met Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Herbert McNair. She eventually left in the mid 1890's and set up an independent studio in the city with her sister. They worked together until France's marriage and departure for Liverpool in 1899. MacDonald married Mackintosh in 1900. 

Collaboration was key to Margaret's creativity, with her sister, she produced metalwork, graphics, and a series of book illustrations. With her husband Charles, she primarily produced the panels for interiors and furniture, notably the tea rooms and The Hill House. Not a lot of details of their relationship is known, because very little documentation survives. However, we do know that MacDonald played a highly important role in the development of the decorative symbolic interiors of the early 1900s, including the House for an Art Lover portfolio, the Rose Boudoir, Turin and the Willow Tea Rooms. Her husband once wrote in a letter to her saying, "Remember, you are half if not three-quarters of all my architectural.." and also reportedly said, "Margaret has genius, I have only talent"! It is not known which of his work she was involved with, but she has always been credited with being an important part of her husband's figurative, symbolic interior designs. Gustav Klimt himself, was said to be taken with her creations and was arguably an influence on him after they both exhibited at the 1900 Vienna Secession.  (Smart women influence everything).

Sadly, poor health cut short Margaret's career - as far as anyone knows, she produced no work after 1921, She died in 1933, five years after her husband. The largest single holding of her work is housed at the Hunterian Art Gallery at the University of Glasgow. 

Her best know works include the Gesso panel 'The May Queen', which was a partner to Charles Rennie Mackintosh's panel 'The Wassail' for Miss Cranston's Ingram Street Tearooms, and 'Oh ye, all ye that walk in Willowood', which formed part of the decorative scheme for the Room de Luxe in the Willow Tearooms. All three of these are now on display at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow. 

I've had the pleasure of viewing her work at the Kelvingrove Museum and it is a must see. The simplicity yet intricate details of it is a delight to the eyes. 

Have a wonderful weekend darlings!!


Some of her work

November 5th

Date: 1894
Margaret Macdonald paints the world as she sees it on the day of her 29th birthday: a woman nestles, hands beneath her chin, within a mound of earth as she watches the rockets of Bonfire Night light up the sky.

O Ye, All Ye That Walk in Willowood

Date: 1903

Panel for the Salon de Luxe, Willow Tea Rooms, Sauchiehall Street.

(Painted gesso on hessian, set with glass beads)


Date: 1897


Date: circa 1894
May have been a design for a stained glass window


Date: 1898

The Queen of Diamonds

Date: 1909

The White Rose and the Red Rose

Date: 1902

The Opera of the Winds

The Opera of the Seas

Date: circa 1915

The Heart of the Rose

Date: 1901

The Mysterious Garden

Date: 1911
This is an example of the large watercolours which Margaret MacDonald began to exhibit after 1910, inspiring Charles Rennie Mackintosh to turn to watercolour painting as a full-time occupation. As Billeliffe observes, however, 'while his subject matter remained firmly based on nature, Margaret retained her interest in obscure legend and myth or the stories of Maeterlinek'.

The May Queen (detail)

Date: 1900
One of three panels for the Ladies Luncheon Room, Ingram Street Tea Rooms.

(Oil painted gesso on hessian and scrim, set with twine, glass beads, thread, mother-of-pearl, and tin leaf panel). The May Queen was a girl chosen, especially for her beauty, to preside over the May Day celebrations (the first day of May, traditionally a celebration of the coming of Spring). The eve of May 1st is known as Walpurgis Night, which is believed in German folklore to be the night of a witches' sabbath on the Brocken, in the Harz Mountains.

The May Queen

Date: 1900 Sketch


Date: 1908


  1. That is a very interesting read.
    She's so talented.
    Love her incredible works.

  2. Amazing works of art! ヅ

    You may want to visit our blog we'd love it more if we follow each other! ヅ


  3. I remember reading about Mackintosh when I studied Art History, but I've never heard of his wife before, so thank you for another good lesson! :) Her work is beautiful! It's like they all have some kind of inner light that shines through. It almost feels like if you hang some of these paintings in a completely dark room, it would be lit up! Lovely! :) xox

  4. You're right- I had never heard of her.

    Beautiful works- I love the Opera of the Winds!

  5. Nice post!! :)


  6. Love the mystery and darkness behind some of these. Enjoy your weekend pretty lady!

  7. Summer 1897 is by far my favourite Doll, these are all wonderful pieces though, it's kind of sad that her career was cut so short because there is some truly wonderful photographs here and she deserves a whole lot of credit.

  8. Oh, so good! She was really talented! Honestly, I never studied either of them in college, but art history was only my minor.


  9. amazing pictures, such beauty! thanks for commenting on my blog! cant see you in my gfc followers though, can you check you followed? thanks! http://xxxloveisbeautyxxx.blogspot.ie/

  10. Thanks for the artist spotlight - learning some new things over the summer is always good!


  11. They're stunning works. It's such a shame that women so often seem to be stuck in the shadow of their husbands, some of which would probably never have had their success without their wife... Have a lovely weekend xo

  12. These are breathtaking pictures! There is so much detail and creativity into making one piece, makes me so inspired =)
    - Che


  13. Thank you, thank you and thank you for that post!! It's the first time that I see your blog and now I'm fall in love with Margaret MacDonald!! I cannot choose between Summer and Ophelia...


  14. She's very talented! These pieces are beautiful!

  15. Amaazing blog and I really love it.
    Very nice photos :))

    ~~follow each other?


  16. Amaazing blog and I really love it.
    Very nice photos :))

    ~~follow each other?


  17. WOW! This is an amazing artist and I always learn something new from your posts Kizzie. Enjoy the wknd and I hope it doesn't get too crazy in UK

  18. FAB post!!!


  19. Such muted emotion! Have a good weekend dear!

    Chic 'n Cheap Living

  20. I love her use of neutral colors. She also reminds me of Klimt! Hope you have a fabulous weekend as well!

  21. I really like the Queen of Diamonds. I knew nothing about her. She was an amazing talent. I'm always learning from you Kizzy. Thanks for this post. LOL at everything should've been kept at The Factory! I feel as if he's throwing collections together now. HaHaHa

  22. Very interesting biography. Her work is very beautiful and has an ethereal feel to it. It is full of light and inspiration. It's sad that she didn't live but only 5 years after her husband passed. :)

  23. It's so nice that she worked with both her sister and her husband. Thanks for introducing me to her because you're right--I hadn't heard of her before this. My fave piece is "Summer".

  24. I wish we looked through these painting in my hist. of modern art class! they are beautiful, so ethereal and dream-like

  25. Once again, I've learned something new! What a classic face on this artist. I am always amazing at what the artist produced SO long ago.


  26. hello! first time here :) the artworks are absolutely fantastic!! I will have to learn more about this artist... anyway, her artworks remind me so much of Klimt!!! some of the motifs are pretty exactly the same! very interesting :) but I guess that's because they probsbly lived at the same time ;)

  27. Thanks for sharing her and her work with us :)

  28. Hi, I love ur blog =)I will follow u =))


  29. I love that you profile Scottish artists Kizzy. Her work is beautiful and I didn't know anything about her, only her husband. The heart of the rose is my favorite! Hope you're having a wonderful weekend!
    xo Mary Jo

  30. That's the kind of painting I love : between Klimt and Pre-paphaëlists.

  31. The mysterious garden is my favorite...

  32. Very interesting! I would have never known about her!

  33. Very very interesting and amazing :)

    Beautiful blog :)

  34. So talented! Amazing work!

  35. she was pretty amazing, skillz

  36. Wait, is your blog design different? Has it been different for awhile and I'm just not observant? Either way, I love it!

  37. Wow, how spectacular! I love The Heart of the Rose, especially. Hope you are doing well! Thanks for the art history lesson.

  38. Very nice collection, I can see that you have a nice taste in art.


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