Frances Macdonald
(1873 – 1921)

Much of Frances’s story is entwined with that of her sister, Margaret, and husband Herbert McNair. From 1890, at the age of around 17 she attended the Glasgow School of Art with Margaret until 1894. Later they opened a studio in the city around 1896. In 1899 with her husband, she moved to Liverpool where she taught embroidery at the School of Architecture and Applied Arts. A year later she gave birth to a son which may have had an impact on her output. On returning to Glasgow she taught a range of classes at the School of Art from 1908 – including art needlework and embroidery design, enamels design and metalwork until 1911. Frances was a talented designer, watercolour painter and embroiderer, with a distinctive style. In her early designs she collaborated often with her sister, and later with her husband where they worked together on silverware, jewellery and furniture commissions. Her work on paper was often dark in tone and featured elongated, androgynous female forms and sexual imagery which would have been controversial at the time. 

Her work featured in many art magazines of time, particularly The Studio, and was exhibited widely. With her husband she exhibited at The Vienna Secession in 1900 and in Turin in 1902, where they received positive reviews. Frances died in 1921 at the early age of 48, possibly by her own hand. Examples of her work are very rare, mostly held in museums. Her husband is said to have destroyed much of her surviving work after her death.

Frances Macdonald
Drooko poster
Design by Margaret and Frances Macdonald. A studio commission for a local umbrella manufacturer, also displayed in 1896 at the Art Institute Exhibition in Glasgow. Cricitised in the local press due to the severity and representation of the female form. The design was based on the Umbelliferous plant from which the umbrella is named, many species of which are said to be dangerous. © The Hunterian, 2018
Clock Face, 1896
Designed by Margaret and Frances Macdonald, silver, white metal and walnut, the later weights and pendulum depicting owls and birds. The clock face with putti blowing seeds. Maker's marks TR & S and hallmarks Glasgow 1896. It was first exhibited in 1896 at the Arts and Crafts Society exhibition, London. It emerged in spring 2006 at an auction in England.
Talwin Morris explained that the design depicted winged hours playing with dandelion puffs.
Embroidered Cushion
The original cushion, has not survived, with this replica made by Liz Arthur. The design shows fledgling bird motif. The original design for the cushion is in the Hunterian Art Gallery collection.
A Pond
Watercolour, 1894
Ill  Omen, 1893
Honesty Mirror
Tin, wood and glass, circa 1896 © CSG CIC
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 

A Pond

Watercolour, 1894

Go to link