Margaret Macdonald
(1864 – 1933)

Born in Wolverhampton, Margaret attended a progressive local school in her early years, studying art, French, German and Greek. In 1890 the family moved to Glasgow and together with her younger sister, Frances, she began attending the Glasgow School of Art.  In 1896 the sisters opened their own studio, producing painting, embroidery, gesso, posters, stained glass and metalwork. As early as 1897 their work drew attention, with coverage in The Studio and other leading art publications. In 1900, Margaret married Mackintosh and in 1914 they left Glasgow. 


Margaret’s work was exhibited widely and was probably more appreciated overseas. Between 1895 and 1924, she contributed to over forty exhibitions. She worked in a wide range of media, excelling as a watercolourist, metalworker embroiderer and graphic artist. She seems to have produced very little work from 1910 to 1922, with her last known work a painting in 1921. Margaret played an important role as both a muse and support to Mackintosh, collaborating with him often, as she had in her early career with her sister. She created embroidery and gesso panels to complement his interior schemes within Miss Cranston's Willow and Ingram Street Tea rooms.

Examples of her work are very rare. A painted gesso panel from 1902, The White Rose and The Red Rose, was sold in 2008 at Christie’s Auction House in London for £1,700,500. The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery holds over 100 objects, including watercolours, graphics, textiles and personal letters. It is a sad injustice that despite her enormous talent and many prizes won, Margaret’s death in 1933 received only brief note in the press. 

Margaret Macdonald
The Mysterious Garden
Painting, 1911 - Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
The May Queen
The May Queen from the Ladies' Luncheon Room Ingram Street Tea Rooms, 1900.
Opera of the Seas
Gesso on penal, 1921.
Gesso Panel - O Ye...
Gesso panel, O Ye, All Ye that Walk in Willowwood, made in 1903 for the Salon de Luxe within the Willow Tearooms.
© Glasgow Museums Collection
Menu Design
The White Rose and the Red Rose
Painted gesso on hessian with glass beads and shell. A woman enclosed in a tear shape, in subtle pink and lilacs, her arms not visible. The symbolid meaning is not clear.
Copper, hand-beaten, embossed and chased sconce. A sconce was used to magnify the light of one or more candles by a back reflector, in front of which the candle was supported in a socket at the end of a fixed or swivel branch. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Watercolour, 1897
Show More
  • email40x40
  • twitter40x40

If you have any comments or questions, or would like to know more – please get in touch. 


Contact via email:

Follow @TheGlasgowStyle