It's hard to go anywhere in Scotland with out seeing some hint of the influences of the artist and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Even if you didn't realize that it's what you were looking at, chances are you've seen something with a 'Mackintosh' style design on it. The very unique and recognizable design style has been imitate on a thousand coffee mugs, picture frames, post cards and figurines. I doubt there is a Scottish souvenir shop anywhere in the country that doesn't have something with this style in it.
But to appreciate it really (and I feel I can say this with some authority as I've lived in Scotland now for almost a decade and never thought much of the style until recently) you must go to Glasgow and see the original work.
As a simple style - it has a modernist feel, and as it is very unique it will obviously not be to everyone's taste. I'll happily admit that it never was mine, and as a lover of older, more traditional art I never paid it much attention.
The problem with that, is that the recreation of something so unique - whether it would be your first or favourite choice - will never really capture the true beauty of what it has to offer. So if all of the 'Mackintosh' you've seen is the little thin rose designs on trinkets or mirrors - then you are in for a real treat if you decide to check out Glasgow's Mackintosh trail.
Some art - I happen to believe - is best when experienced unawares. When it sneaks up on you and though you know nothing at all about it, it speaks to you instantly and in a way you can not describe.
However, other things seem to be infused with another layer and level of life and appreciation when you know something real about it's history and the life of the artist who created it. And though I am sure this will include different art for everyone, for me, the art work of Mackintosh and his wife did not come alive for me until I knew the history of the man and where the heart of his design came from.
I won't spend this review telling you the history of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Scottish artist and architect who lived from 1868 - 1928 and who spent much of his time and did a lot of his work in Glasgow. But I highly recommend that if you don't know much about this artist or the relationship he had with his wife and how their artistic natures complemented each other, I would highly recommend that you look into it a little bit at least before setting off on the Mackintosh trail.
I was fortunate enough to find myself in a hotel on Sauchiehall Street in Glagsow with a week to kill and pouring rain outside, and a mild interest to check out Mackintosh's work while I was in the city. To my absolute delight, BBC2 decided to air an hour long special my first night in the city about the artist himself.
I was pretty taken by the story, and the next morning headed out with rain-proofs on to obtain a map of the Mackintosh Trail (consisting of art and architecture of his design around the city) and set off to see it for myself.
Despite the weather, and other aspects of Glasgow - I found myself spending not hours but days transfixed in the immense and beautiful Kelvingrove Museum becoming more and more a fan of the art I had always dismissed in the past.
This is a really unique thing to go in search of, and as far as I'm concerned (though I know many would disagree) is the best thing that a visit to Glasgow has to offer. If you're going to be spending some time in the city, I can recommend nothing better than for you to browse the artists work and history and then set out on foot to explore it for yourself.