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DES Daughters

Book cover credit: Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, The Heart of the Rose,
circa 1902. 97.8 cm × 100.3 cm. © The Glasgow School of Art Collection

DES Daughters - Cover Image

I am interested in how women make sense of illness by making art, and how making art can become a vehicle for connecting individual women and creating embodied social movements. The Heart of the Rose illustrates some of the embodied choices and uncertainties in the experiences of DES daughters, and calls upon audiences to put themselves into the picture. I love the image of a fetus being held between two women, or passed from one to the other, or a fetus carried by one woman growing up and becoming another woman, depending on how you see it. What does the fetus-in-the-rose signify? Are the women sisters? Are they a mother and daughter? Is one woman caring for the other? Are they sharing this child or sharing the care of the child? Their clothing overlaps, their bodies are conjoined. Is this an image of collaborative labor?

Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh was a Scottish artist who worked in a variety of media (watercolors, graphics, textiles, metalwork and gesso) during the late 19th and early 20th century. She used gesso — a form of decorative plaster that was used by Renaissance artists — in The Heart of the Rose. It is one of a pair of gesso panels that Macdonald Mackintosh exhibited during the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Arts in Turin, Italy, in 1902. The panels by Macdonald Mackintosh were in an installation (The Rose Boudoir) she and her husband Charles Rennie Mackintosh created for the Exhibition. Their installation brought to international attention the image known as the "Glasgow Rose" and other elements of what came to be known as "The Glasgow Style." The Heart of the Rose also reflects a feminist challenge to the prevailing visual vocabulary of women.

Macdonald Mackintosh made art collaboratively with her husband and her sister. She worked with her husband, the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, on many projects. Margaret and her sister Frances studied at the Glasgow School of Art; they set up an independent studio in Glasgow and worked together on a series of book illustrations and other works of art. Later, they formed an informal artist's group that became known as "The Four" with two other students they met at the GSA, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and James Herbert McNair. Today the two sisters are the most widely recognized women who articulated and fostered the Glasgow Style.

Sources:

  • The Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society (http://www.crmsociety.com/Work.aspx?WorkId=85&NavPage=470 accessed Sept. 6, 2009)
  • Jude Burkhauser, ed. ‘Glasgow Girls’: Women in Art and Design 1880-1920 (Edinburgh: Canongate Press, 1993)
  • Janice Helland, The Studios of Frances and Margaret Macdonald (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1996).