Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928)
CHARLES RENNIE MACKINTOSH (1868-1928)
'The Little Bay, Port Vendres', 1927 (watercolor)
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a Glaswegian architect, artist and designer, was a major exponent of the Art Nouveau style. He is also associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement in the UK. When he designed a building he also designed the furniture and fittings, so that everything both inside and outside, was in harmony. His great architectural masterpiece was the Glasgow School of Art, built between 1897-99 and 1907-09.
'The Little Bay' is one of a series of watercolors painted towards the end of his life, when Mackintosh and his wife Margaret McDonald, who was also an artist, settled in the small town of Port Vendres in the south of France.
This painting is composed in three distinct sections: the foreground, which is enclosed by a wall and steps; the mid-ground, which features the lapping waves, boats, huts, and a jetty; and the background, which is filled with buildings that rise up from the edge of the bay.
In the foreground, the artist plays with patterns that echo one another. The zigzag shape of the wall on the left recurs in its own shadow, which in turn is echoed by the shape of the stairs on the right and the shadow of the hand rail that is cast upon them.
In the mid-ground, the patterns are more complex. The elliptical curves of the waves are interrupted by the vertical reflections of the buildings on the far shore. The rhythmic movement of the waves is echoed by the arrangement of boats on the sand. These elements act as a counter- balance to the curved path in the foreground. As a counterpoint to all these curves, Mackintosh arranges patterns of angled lines across the mid-ground. He starts on the left with the two flag poles; moves right to the oars on the jetty; down to the planks at the water's edge; up to the masts on the boat; up further to the three long shadows on the jetty wall; and finally, ends with the parallel strips of wood nailed to the roof of the largest hut.
In the background, the buildings are arranged in a geometric patchwork of orange roofs with white sunlit and grey shaded walls.
The colour in this painting uses a very limited palette. Apart from the strong wedge of blue water which is counterbalanced by the complementary orange of the roofs, the keel of a boat and a shed, the colours consists mostly of subdued greys. The watercolour paint is applied in very thin washes, which allows the brightness of the white paper to shine through the pigment to create the painting's luminous sunlit quality.