Margaret Macdonald lived from 5 November 1864 to 7 January 1933. She was an artist whose work helped define "The Glasgow Style" and who married Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Margaret Macdonald was born in the English Midlands, where her father, a Glaswegian, worked as a mining engineer. After he retired in 1890, the family moved back to Glasgow and the following year Margaret and her younger sister Frances both became students at the Glasgow School of Art. Margaret worked in a number of different media including paint, metalwork, embroidery, and textiles. While at the GSA, Margaret and Frances formed a close artistic partnership with J Herbert McNair and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Frances Macdonald married McNair in 1899, and Margaret married Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1900.
The group were often referred to as The Four or The Glasgow Four and collectively exhibited in Glasgow, London, Turin and Vienna. What became known as the "Glasgow style" strongly influenced the Viennese Art Nouveau movement, and that in turn was to have a huge influence on European art more widely.
While Charles Rennie Mackintosh went on to become highly regarded as an architect, the role of Margaret Macdonald as an artist in her own right, and as a contributor to her husband's success through her collaboration on his interior designs, is too often overlooked. Though not by Mackintosh himself, who once commented: "Margaret has genius, I have only talent." Margaret certainly played an important part in the designs for projects such as House for an Art Lover in 1900, and Kate Cranston's Willow Tea Rooms which opened in 1903. Many of the interiors she strongly influenced are on view today in the Mackintosh Gallery at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. She also strongly influenced the interior design of one of Mackintosh's most famous domestic commissions, Hill House in Helensburgh, where a number of her works can be seen.
Margaret moved with Mackintosh to Surrey in 1914, and then to Chelsea in 1915 and southern France in 1923. After Charles Rennie Mackintosh died in 1928, Margaret Macdonald continued to work at their studio in Chelsea until her own death in 1933.