Quoted from Roger Billcliffe. "J. H. MacNair in Glasgow and Liverpool." Walker Art Gallery (Liverpool) Annual Report and Bulletin 1 (1970): 48-74.

MacNair lacked the genius of Mackintosh, and one cannot pretend that his surviving works are on the same level. With the more logical and methodical mind of an architect Mackintosh made sense of MacNair's early efforts, but he obviously went much farther, achieving a wholly original and individual style. There is a hint of impatience in all of MacNair's work, and a tendency for him to embark on some new project before he had solved the problem of the work in hand. A perversity and peculiar eccentricity pervades much of his work, and suffuses it with an impracticality even more severe than that sometimes achieved by Mackintosh. One can see from the indecision of his furniture designs the temperament which made him give up architecture. He could rarely control his inspiration in order to perfect a particular design, or to use knowledge gained in earlier works to prevent the recurrence of similar mistakes. Each piece is different from the last, and the next.

MacNair was an important member of The Four, for his early work was so different from his contemporaries in Glasgow that one had to take notice of him. He was the perfect stylistic foil to Mackintosh, who gives the impression in much of his early Glasgow Style work of having considered every line twice, and more important, of having considered it in the light of his academic training. He creates a category of his own, for his work is different from that of Mackintosh in its concept and its texture; it is at its most delicate in the work shown at Turin, but even here it is far behind the elegance and lightness of Mackintosh's furniture. But like Mackintosh his work is new: he is solving old problems with new ideas. In this way he is different again from the other Glasgow designers, like Logan and E. A. Taylor, who attempted to popularize the Glaggow Style.


Billcliffe, Roger. "J. H. MacNair in Glasgow and Liverpool." Walker Art Gallery (Liverpool) Annual Report and Bulletin 1 (1970): 48-74.

White, Gleeson. "Some Glasgow Designers and Their Work (Part II)." Studio 11 (1897).

Created July 1999; last modified 15 July 2015