Although Mackintosh had no formal training in the design of lithographic posters, in the mid-1890s he produced several, including this design for The Scottish Musical Review, printed in four sections. Human, plant, and bird forms are integrated into abstract patterns illustrating Symbolist themes of spiritual transformation, decay and renewal, day and night. The unconventional stylization of the androgynous figure owed much to the experimental approach that Mackintosh shared with the rest of the Glasgow group known as the Four, comprising his wife, Margaret Macdonald; her sister, Frances Macdonald; and Frances’s husband, Herbert MacNair. The analogy with music—a model of synthetic unity—was a major theme in critical writing about the New Art.
Gallery label from Shaping Modernity: Design 1880-1980, December 23, 2009–July 25, 2010 .
This towering poster, with its androgynous stylization of the female form, idiosyncratic lettering, and purple and green color scheme—perhaps symbolic of both the Scottish landscape and the women’s suffrage movement in which many Glasgow artists were involved at the time—was part of an experimental series produced collaboratively in the mid–1890s by The Four (Mackintosh, the sisters Margaret and Frances Macdonald, and Herbert McNair). The ornamental language they developed—particularly the visualization of the New Woman—was criticized as being “ghoul–like” and “weird.”
Gallery label from Designing Modern Women 1890–1990, October 5, 2013–October 1, 2014.