The Magazine

April, 1894, Page: 29

Page Dimensions: 31.8 x 25.6 cms


Title: Cabbages in an Orchard

Date: 1894

Inscription: 1 page of text. Part of 4 pages of text.

Keywords: trees; orchards; symbolism; flowers; plants

Material: Pen and ink

Commentary: Mackintosh’s watercolour may have been partly inspired by the paintings by several of the Glasgow Boys featuring cabbages and orchards, however, his accompanying commentary contains many clues to another agenda. He maintains that his are not ‘the usual kind of everyday cabbage’… ‘Neither is the orchard a common kind of orchard’. The trees are so old that they have forgotten what trees should be like. The clue to the painting’s symbolic meaning, if it has one, might be the sentence in which Mackintosh maintains that the trees have spent so long staring at cabbages and bricks that ‘they are trying to become like these things’. If he was familiar with the commonly used Victorian Language of Flowers which assigned symbolic meanings to many plants, cabbages would have signified ‘profit’ and the reference to bricks suggests the architectural profession. The reference to clothes in the orchard possibly indicates that Mackintosh is commenting on the architectural profession’s concern for respectability over artistic endeavour: the trees have forgotten their own purpose and never produce any fruit. The gooseberry in the Language of Flowers signifies ‘anticipation’. Perhaps it therefore represents the younger members of the profession. Do they look forward to fulfilling the architect’s true function or do they intend to use their calling solely to become wealthy and respectable?