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Friday, 18 January, 2002, 16:15 GMT
Museum unveils designer's panels
Decorative panels designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh
The panels were unveiled at the museum on Friday
Two decorative panels by designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh have been unveiled at a Scottish museum.

The panels, which formed part of Mackintosh's design for the famous Willow Tea Rooms, went on public display on Friday at the Museum of Scotland, in Edinburgh.

The National Museums of Scotland have undertaken restoration work - sponsored by Putman Investments - on the two 5ft by 6ft panels, which were purchased from the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society.

Hugh Cheape, who led the team of curators which restored the panels, said:"Nearly 100 years on the panels are a unique insight into the creative genius of the designer.

Curator Hugh Cheape
Curator Hugh Cheape examines the panel

"They are as contemporary and relevant today as when they were first created."

The panels originally formed part of a unique and avant-garde frieze of eight low-relief plasterwork panels based on the design of a stylised willow tree in the designer's most famous tea room.

Opened in 1904 in Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street, the Willow Tea Rooms were the final and most elegant of the tea rooms commissioned by Mackintosh's client, Kate Cranston.

The designer - who was born in Glasgow in 1868 to a police superintendent father from the Highlands and a mother from Ayrshire - made the panels in 1903.

Wonderful project

He developed the theme of the willow to chime with the old Scottish word sauch, for willow, as in the street name Sauchiehall, which means willow glen.

Through a painstaking process of conservation the curators have found that the panels were coloured - a discovery which contradicts prevailing opinion on the Mackintosh style.

When the Willow Tea Rooms were closed in the 1935 - 17 years after their creator's death - the panels fell into disrepair and were only re-discovered in 1978 when they were acquired by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society.

Director of development at the Museum of Scotland, Colin McCallum, said: "The fact that this project has been made possible is wonderful."

See also:

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