The Three Perfumes


Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh was a part of the Glasgow Four, who studied at the Glasgow School of Art as pioneers of their personal styling of Art Nouveau combined with Celtic motifs and folklore, coined the “Glasgow Style.”  

Mackintosh was actively involved in the Glasgow School, a movement that emerged in Scotland in the late 1880s to 1900s. In “The Three Perfumes,” three elegant women come together as white lilies, azures and rosy droplets of stylized perfume cascade from them like a cape wrapped around them, their forms elegantly stylized with naturalistic patterns, reminiscent of the world’s richly hued tapestries. This delicate watercolor is a distinct artistic expression of nature and femininity, and encourages the viewer to contemplate the symbolism of perfume and its association with luxury and ethereality. 

At the time of its creation, Symbolism was a dominant artistic movement in Europe, characterized by its focus on conveying emotions and ideas through symbolic imagery rather than direct representation. Mackintosh, along with her husband, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and other artists associated with the Glasgow School, embraced Symbolist principles in their work. Mackintosh was highly inspired by folktales, operas, and poetry, which is often seen throughout her work. 

“The Three Perfumes” is a significant piece in the context of the Glasgow School of Art. This work reflects the cultural and artistic shifts during that time, including the rise of Art Nouveau and the broader social changes in Europe.

The Three Perfumes by Margaret Mackintosh, published by the Cranbrook Art Museum
The Three Perfumes by Margaret Mackintosh, published by the Cranbrook Art Museum