Also in this section…?


Events in the McNairs’ lives are listed separately until the early 1890s when the artists met and began to exhibit and work together.


James Herbert McNair

  • 1868 Born, Glasgow, 23 December
  • c. 1887 Studied painting in Rouen, France
  • 1888 Joined Glasgow architectural practice of John Honeyman
  • 1888-9 Attended evening classes at Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College
  • 1889 Charles Rennie Mackintosh joined practice, now Honeyman & Keppie
  • 1889-95 Attended evening classes at Glasgow School of Art
  • 1895 Left Glasgow School of Art and Honeyman & Keppie; set up independent studio in Glasgow

Frances Macdonald McNair

  • 1873 Born, Kidsgrove, Staffordshire, 24 August
  • c. 1890 Family moved to Glasgow; enrolled Glasgow School of Art with her sister Margaret Macdonald
  • 1894 Left Glasgow School of Art; set up independent studio with Margaret Macdonald in Glasgow


  • 1894 Exhibited at the Glasgow School of Art Club autumn exhibition
  • 1895 Posters exhibited at the Salon de l’Art Nouveau, Paris; decorative art and furniture exhibited at the Queen’s Rooms, Glasgow
  • 1896 Posters exhibited at the Royal Aquarium, London; exhibited at the Autumn Exhibition, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; FM posters exhibited at the Société des Beaux Arts, Glasgow and the Glasgow Institute; FM exhibited at the 5th Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society exhibition, London
  • 1897 Work featured in the Studio magazine; exhibited at the Autumn Exhibition, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; FM exhibited at the Glasgow Institute
  • 1898 Work featured in Dekorative Kunst magazine; FM exhibited at the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolours; JHM exhibition of pastels, Gutekunst Gallery, London; JHM appointed Instructor in Design, School of Architecture and Applied Art, University College, Liverpool
  • 1899 Exhibited at 3rd Venice Biennale; exhibited International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, London; married 14 June
  • 1899-1900 Furnished and decorated their home, 54 Oxford Street, Liverpool
  • 1900 Son, Sylvan, born 18 June; exhibited at the 8th Secession exhibition, Vienna; exhibited at the Educational Exhibition, Liverpool
  • 1901 Costumes and scenery for Greek plays, University College, Liverpool; exhibited at the International Art Exhibition, Dresden
  • 1902 Exhibited a ‘Lady’s Writing Room’ at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art, Turin; FM exhibited at Architecture and Design of the New Style, Moscow
  • 1903 Greek plays, University College, Liverpool
  • 1905 School of Architecture and Applied Art closed; JHM moved briefly to the City Art School, before joining the newly-formed Sandon Studios, Liverpool.
  • 1906 JHM exhibited at the Liverpool Academy
  • 1907-8 FM teaching at Glasgow School of Art
  • 1908 Exhibited Sandon Studios, Liverpool, and Allied Artists Association, London
  • c.1908 Left Liverpool and returned to Glasgow
  • 1908-9 FM teaching at Glasgow School of Art
  • 1909 Exhibited Allied Artists Association, London; McNair family declared bankrupt
  • 1909-11 FM teaching at Glasgow School of Art
  • 1911 Exhibited Sandon Studios, Liverpool; joint exhibition Baillie Gallery, London
  • 1912 Exhibited Sandon Studios, Liverpool
  • by 1913 McNair in Canada, returning before the outbreak of the First World War
  • 1921 Frances Macdonald died, 12 December, Glasgow
  • early 1920s JHM ran a garage in Linlithgow with his son
  • late 1920s Sylvan emigrated to Rhodesia; JHM moved to Argyll, Scotland
  • 1955 James Herbert McNair died, 22 April, at Innellan, Argyl

This is Macdonald’s last known work. It returns to the designs of the 1890s for the format of a beaten metal frame and the subject matter of a sleeping/dead woman.

The subject is Arachne, a nymph who attempted suicide having crossed the goddess Minerva and was turned into a spider. The subject perhaps presaged Macdonald’s own death later that year.