Inspiration in Scotland: Margaret Macdonald

Inspiration in Scotland: Margaret Macdonald

Something I've been wanting to do for so long is to take a trip to Scotland. People asked me, "Why? Do you have family there?" No. But, it's kind of a long story...

Back in college, I took a course on women in art history. We had an assignment to write a paper on a woman in the arts that has little recognition for her contributions. From a long list on a sheet of paper at the front of the room, all the other names disappeared and I saw only one name staring back at me, Margaret Macdonald. Something strong inside me said, this is the one. A Scottish artist that barely showed up in a loose Google search except for her husband, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  After much research, and hours at the library with piles of books, I found a love and possible obsession for Margaret. A champion in her craft, intelligence beyond her abilities as an artist, a true force. My paper explained a theory on how she and her husband took a trip to Vienna and inspired Klimt to take his portrait work from literal to ethereal. Something that at the time I personally, didn't find many people writing about, and took a guess that this had to be the truth based on dates and the subsequent work from Klimt after meeting the two. There could have been something published about this, but I struggled to find it. In fact, many of the books I was researching from gave Charles the credit for work with Margaret's name on it. So I also had to assume that these "scholars" were maybe a bit misogynistic? What's a name anyway? *insert eye roll*

Now 16 years later, we finally made our way to Glasgow and entered into the world of Charles and Margaret via, Mackintosh at the Willow, The Hunterian Gallery and Hill House. We discovered that Margaret is finally getting the recognition she deserves. The ones that know her are invested in unfolding truth of her work and collaboration, and sharing it. It felt like all those books I had read that barely acknowledged her could be thrown away or rewritten. Oh, to be a woman who has intellect, passion and skills in a world that only hands out specific freedoms to a select few. Charles her husband has said of Margaret, " I just have talent. Margaret has genius." and in a letter to her, "You must remember that in all my architectural efforts you have been half if not three quarters in them.” How, and who could deny her contribution to all of their collaborative work?

For me, and actually many people I talked to in Glasgow, once you find Margaret, she stays with you. She has been a strong inspiration in my work ever since I researched her. Oh, the excitement and gratification to hear people share the same obsession. I knew to trust my instincts and know she is worth more than the credit she was being given for so long. And yes, she and Charles did inspire Klimt. The work he is most famous for is a result of meeting these two Galswegians.

We returned from our trip 3 weeks ago and I'm just now feeling ready to sort through what we saw. Upon our return I felt like I had a shock to the system. I keep asking myself, what do I do with this experience? I finally met my heroes, and they are giants. Where do I set that down? My artistic side was locked in a state of overwhelm. As I re-entered my studio I told myself, take your time and don't be afraid. It will take me a beat to parse out this trip. Create, reflect, repeat. Trust yourself through process and understand that you know what it is you want to make. I count myself lucky to have the privilege and honor to put my name on my work and call it my own. 

Back to blog