We’re delighted to receive a replacement copy of a rare catalogue that records an 1896 retrospective exhibition of prize-winning designs and artworks submitted by students of several art institutions once run by the Department of Practical Art based in South Kensington, London. The department, which was preceded by Government Schools of Design, aimed to drive the economy by implementing a system of education that provided training in design for industry. Resources were centrally distributed to art institutions under its jurisdiction including, at the time, the Glasgow School of Art. In fact, some of the older and rarer titles held in our Library Special Collections contain bookplates from the Department of Science and Art. The distribution of the original catalogue that was lost in the Mackintosh Library fire would almost certainly have been to the School from South Kensington which therefore marks its happy return to us as a donation.
Among the list of distinguished medal winners at the Glasgow School of Art are listed Jessie Keppie (1896-1934) – younger sister of the architect John Keppie – for a highly decorative carpet design with animal details in 1889. Her illustrations and writings featured in The Magazine, a student publication by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his contemporaries that can be browsed online through VADS: the visual arts data service. Jessie Keppie was one of ‘The Immortals’ the extended artistic circle to which Mackintosh and the Macdonald sisters’ famously belonged.
Thrillingly, the catalogue also lists the achievements of Glasgow School of Art’s first ever librarian and artist, James JFX King, who in 1888 won a gold medal, again, for carpet design. King appears in a photo contained in the School’s Archive of the staff at Tarbet Hotel near Loch Lomond and a painted portrait of him from 1907 is held by the Hunterian Museum. It seems both prize-winners would have studied under Fra Newbury and James Dunlop and attended Glasgow School of Art at a time of concentrated creative output that first established the School’s international reputation. There is further significance to the catalogue in its listing of distinguished Glasgow School of Art alumni, information that is not recorded elsewhere. We therefore express our sincere thanks to Professor Stephen White, Friend of University of Glasgow Library, for extending his friendship to us in replacing this volume from our Mackintosh Library replacement books list.