Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Garelochhead man thinks he might own a rare piece of architect history
A VILLAGE resident claimed possession of the only extant painted portrait of the creator of Helensburgh’s most famous monument.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh (CRM) is renowned as one of Scotland’s finest architects and artists, having created the plans for the Hill House in the early 20th century – but there are few paintings capturing the man himself of the other side of the easel.
And this week, Garelochhead local Jim Hill contacted the Advertiser to share the news that he may only have a rare piece of history in his hands.
Forty-five years after receiving a painted portrait as a housewarming gift from her sister, which she bought from an antique store on Great Western Road because it strikingly resembled the siblings’ father, Jim tries to clarify its authenticity. like a truly unique piece.
He said: “I had the painting for several years until an art student friend pointed out to me that it looked like the famous architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh lookalike.
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“Awakening to the realization of who the portrait might be, I went to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow to research the artist of painting, William Pratt.
“While doing my research I found that William Pratt and Charles Rennie Mackintosh were closely associated. The two gentlemen frequently visited the same art club on Bath Street in Glasgow, where Pratt was a popular member of the club.
“They both worked on this street where Pratt’s studio was and Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s office was.
“In the late 1890s, I also discovered that William Pratt was a part-time professor at the Glasgow School of Art, where CRM’s wife, Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh, was learning art.
“The picture was painted in 1896 by William Pratt in his studio on Bath Street and at that time CRM was looking for hard work.
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“I think these gentlemen were well associated at the time because CRM had a lot of free time, which gave him ample time to get a portrait done by William Pratt.”
Mackintosh designed the Glasgow School of Art in the late 19th century, establishing his international reputation, while the Hill House in Helensburgh, which followed less than a decade later, is widely regarded as his best work.
Jim, 78, has been on a voyage of discovery in recent years to research the painting’s antecedents – and he believes his prized possession could be a valuable collector’s item – but would he ever consider selling it?
“Since I did my research,” he continued, “I have had many reputable art experts who have given their opinions on my portrait, 70/30, which has substantiated my thoughts and my beliefs about its authenticity.
“I have been offered moderate sums which, in my opinion, do not reflect its true value.
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“The only stumbling block I have encountered is that there is no documentation of this painting existing in the William Pratt story or that of the CRM.
“The reason behind this, I believe, was that they were associates and the portrait was painted as a gesture of their relationship.
“I firmly believe that this portrait is the only extant of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
“I’m by no means an academic, I’m a sheet metal worker, but this journey made me appreciate guys with those kinds of skills.
“I feel honored to have it, but it’s all for sale.
“If it’s Mackintosh, then the sky’s the limit in terms of value. A lot of people would be interested, especially if you’re an architect yourself.”
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