Margaret Macdonald, Frances Macdonald, J. Herbert McNair The Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts c.1895

  • Not on view

This poster for the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts is characteristic of the idiosyncratic visual language that the Macdonald sisters and McNair pioneered. Its muted colors and linear stylizations of human, plant, and bird forms, combined with blocks of irregular lettering, connect it with the Art Nouveau of mainland Europe; the influence of Celtic imagery, however, makes it also a uniquely localized expression. In the early 1890s, the creative talents of the Macdonald sisters and McNair were fostered in the hothouse atmosphere of the Glasgow School of Art, a progressive institution that offered an innovative curriculum and welcomed female students. The sisters set up their own studio as professional designers in 1895, and although neither they nor McNair had any formal training in the design of lithographic posters, they experimented jointly with a series of large-format designs.

By arranging their three names in a vertical column on the poster’s left side, the artists highlighted a collaborative approach in which their individual contributions are often indistinguishable. As McNair later wrote, “It is hard to say how much is the suggestion or influence of the one and how much that of the other.” The posters found favor in progressive arts publications and with European decorative artists and designers, especially the Secessionists in Vienna, but also attracted vehement criticism for what critics called their “ghoul-like” and androgynous representations of the female form, which contradicted conventional ideals of feminine beauty.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
90 3/16 × 37 1/8" (229.1 × 94.3 cm)
Carter and Pratt. Art Poster Lithos., Glasgow
Gift of Joseph H. Heil, by exchange
Object number
Architecture and Design

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].