Unusual Neo-Gothic Building in Glasgow

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One of the buildings that took my eye while I was mooching around Glasgow Merchant City last Monday afternoon was what the British Listed Buildings website describes as a

Bizarrely detailed Gothic warehouse,

I think that just about sums it up! It’s relatively restrained in that there isn’t much decoration or embellishment and looks more like a later Art Nouveau or Glasgow School style building than a typical Victorian Gothic wedding cake.

I particularly liked this eyecatching

unusual semi-octagonal door head with heavily moulded octagonal oculus above.

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I haven’t been able to find much information on it other than from the British Listed Buildings posting, but that does tell us that it was originally a warehouse, that it was built in 1859, and that the architect was R W Billings

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The Hatrack

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This distinctive tall, slender, Art Nouveau style listed building at 142 St Vincent St, Glasgow, is popularly known as the Hatrack

It was designed by James Salmon Jnr a contemporary of Charles Rennie Mackintosh Salmon, who was affectionately nicknamed “the Wee Troot”, a play on his name (Troot = Trout) and short stature. He was also one of the architects of the Anderston Savings Bank I stumbled upon during my last visit to the city.

The building was constructed between 1899 and 1902. Its name was inspired by the cupola, which has projecting finials that resemble the “pegs” of a hat rack. It was difficult to get a decent snap of it from street level so this is my best effort.

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Above the entrance to the building is an attractive stained glass oriel window with the design of a sailing ship on top of a sculpture of what appears to be a mythical dragon.

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The front of the building is a curtain wall supported on a concrete frame and is mainly glass with only a bare minimum of decorative sandstone. It does rather remind me of a more slender version of Oriel Chambers, built in Liverpool in 1874 and designed by the revolutionary architect, Peter Ellis. This resemblance and likely influence is also noted on the Scotcities website.

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The Martyr’s School

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I’d spotted that the hotel where I was staying in Glasgow was about a 20 minute walk away from one of the earliest buildings associated with Charles Rennie Mackintosh, so I decided to wander over and take a look.

The red sandstone Martyrs’ School on Parson Street in Townhead, to the north of Glasgow city centre, in the same street where Mackintosh was born. It was designed in 1895, around the same time as the Glasgow Herald Building (today known as the Lighthouse). The architects were Honeyman and Keppie, Mackintosh’s employers, who were commissioned by the Glasgow School Board. At the time, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a senior assistant in the practice and his influence can be seen in the building, especially in the details.

When it was built it was surrounded by working class tenement buildings but today they have been demolished.

Interestingly the last of his Glasgow buildings was another school – the Scotland Street School to the south of the Clyde.

Apparently, the inside of the building has a number of features designed by Mackintosh, but it isn’t open to the public so I couldn’t get inside so had to be content with looking around the outside. The late afternoon light wasn’t brilliant and my photos aren’t so great, unfortunately.

The front and rear entrances certainly bear the hallmarks of Mackintosh

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as well as the upper floor on the west side of the building

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Street haunting in Glasgow

I was up in Glasgow on Monday and Tuesday for some meetings. I took a train up late morning and when I arrived had a few hours before my first commitment so decided to have a mooch around the city centre. It’s a city with plenty of character and interesting architecture. Here’s a few snaps I took during the short time I had street haunting, mainly round the Merchant City area.

NGI Renovated and Renewed

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During my visit to the National Galley of Ireland I was able to take a look at the older parts of the building that only reopened on June 15th. They’ve been closed for the past six years for extensive renovation works including building repairs, fire upgrading, environmental controls and improving accessibility.

First impressions were that the architects in charge of the project, Heneghan Peng, who were also responsible for the Giant’s Causeway Visitor’s Centre, had done a good job. All the services have been well hidden and the older rooms, which I remember looking tired when I last visited them, have been refreshed and brightened up. Windows in the Shaw room, that were previously covered over to facilitate the hanging of paintings, have been uncovered making it a much brighter space lit with natural light.

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They’ve also created an airy, bright covered courtyard in the space between the between the Dargan Wing and the 1901 Milltown Wing

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At one end of the courtyard there’s a rather beautiful sinuous wooden sculpture, Magnus Modus, by Joseph Walsh, made of olive ash with a Kilkenny limestone base. It was commissioned by the Office of Public Works on behalf of the National Gallery of Ireland.

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Harry Clarke at the NGI

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The National Gallery of Ireland fully opened earlier this year, following renovations that have taken 4 years to complete. During this period most of the Gallery’s collection has been locked away in storage, so, although I didn’t have much time left before the gallery closed for the day after visiting the Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Paintingand Käthe Kollwitz exhibitions and listening to the musicians in the Performance Art event, I found some time to wander round the permanent collection.

The Gallery has a small collection of Irish stained glass so I made my way to the room where its on display and was immediately drawn to two stunning pieces, one large and one small, by Harry Clarke, a leading exponent of the Celtic Revival and of the Irish Arts and Crafts movement at the beginning of the 20th century. I’m a big fan of his work which I’ve seen at the hUgh Lane Gallery in Dublin and the Honan Chapel in Cork

The larger of the two works is The Mother of Sorrows

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The  Gallery website tells us that this window

was made as a Memorial to Sister Superior of Saint Wilfrid, Principal of Dowanhill Training College, Glasgow. Following the success of Harry’s window, The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin, for the convent chapel at Dowanhill in Glasgow in 1922, the superior, Sister Wilfrid, ordered a further war memorial window to commemorate the victims of the First World War. The Mother of Sorrows was commissioned by Sister Wilfrid in 1926, based on the pieta (Bowe, in Christie’s website, Lot 86, The Irish Sale, May 17th 2002).
Due to Sister Wilfrid’s sudden death the window was erected in Glasgow on 24 January 1927 and became her memorial.

It was purchased by the NGI in 2002

The smaller piece, The Song of the Mad Prince, based on a poem by Walter de la Mare is particularly beautiful.

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The song of the mad prince is an exquisite panel housed in a James Hicks cabinet. A small light at the back of the cabinet illuminates the panel. The panel is made up of two sheets of flashed glass; flashed blue glass is on top and flashed ruby glass is underneath.
The panel was originally made for Thomas Bodkin, Harry’s friend and patron.

Clarke’s work certainly is exquisite. Very much influenced by the Art Nouveau, Symbolist and Arts and Crafts movement with finely drawn figures, minutely detailed images and luminous colours. These photos, snapped with a mobile phone, really can’t do them justice; they need to be seen “in the flesh” to be really appreciated.

Käthe Kollwitz: Life, Death, War at the NGI

Leaving the Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting exhibition at the National Galley of Ireland I spotted that there was an exhibition of works by Käthe Kollwitz in the Print Gallery.

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Käthe Schmidt was born in Königsberg, 150 years ago on on 8th July 1867  in what was then in East Prussia (today Kaliningrad, Russia). However she lived most of her life in Berlin where she studied and later married Karl Kollwitz, a doctor living for the half century in Prenzlauer Berg, a working class suburb of North Berlin and one of the city’s poorest neighbourhoods. Her husband worked for a workers’ health insurance fund and often treated the working poor free of charge. Initially trained as a painter, Kollwitz began to focus on the graphic arts – drawing, etching, woodcuts – and sculpture. Influenced by the writings of Emile Zola, her subjects were ordinary people, the downtrodden and the repressed with a particular emphasis on the suffering of women. Her work is dominated by images of death, war and social injustice.

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Self portrait

The couple had two sons, Hans and Peter. After the outbreak of WWI, Peter, who was only eighteen, volunteered for the German Army. He died on the Western front in 1914, soon after he’d arrived and this left an indelible impression on Käthe who had persuaded her husband to allow the 18 year old to enlist.

The exhibition features 38 prints and drawings from the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany along with two lithographs from the National Gallery of Ireland’s collection. It includes two of her print cycles, Peasant War and War, and a number of what are described as “honest” self-portraits.

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The Plough from the Peasant War  series

Kollwitz’s dark images were a stark contract to the paintings I’d just viewed of domestic scenes from well off middle class life during the Dutch Golden Age. They portrayed the reality of life for people living in poverty, in harsh conditions and suffering the impact of war.  And although she worked during the first half of last century they remain relevant today. Her images of the impact of war could have been created in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and poverty still exists even in Europe and America.

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The Prisoners from the Peasant War Series

As it’s the 150th anniversary of her birth there’s been a number of articles about her life and work. A number I’ve read question her political commitment and see her as an outsider, even something of a voyeur – observing the life of workers and their families but with no real commitment to social justice. Personally, I find that difficult to believe. Her work shows a passion that must be based on sympathy and a desire for change.

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The Widow I from the War series of woodcuts

 

An indictment of the social conditions in Germany during the late 19th and early 20th century, it’s impossible for anyone with a social conscience and a feeling for social injustice not to be moved by her stark black and white images.