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French connection: Mackintosh celebrated with trail

THE world-famous Scottish artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh is finally to be honoured in the French countryside where he spent his final years.

UNVEILED: The trail in the Pyrenees is marked by 30 landscape watercolours at the spots where Mackintosh painted them. The architect lived in Port-Vendres, where his ashes were scattered and where a bust of him is  to be unveiled.
UNVEILED: The trail in the Pyrenees is marked by 30 landscape watercolours at the spots where Mackintosh painted them. The architect lived in Port-Vendres, where his ashes were scattered and where a bust of him is to be unveiled.

This week will see the official opening of the £200,000 Mackintosh Trail in the Pyrenees Orientales in southern France, where Mackintosh moved in 1923. He and his wife, Margaret MacDonald, lived in the town of Port-Vendres.

With his life as an architect seemingly over and disillusioned with the business, Mackintosh spent his time happily painting watercolours until 1927, when he was diagnosed with cancer.

He died the following year in London.

The trail will be opened on Wednesday by the Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, who will unveil a bronze relief of Mackintosh by British sculptor Jane Robbins at the Hotel du Commerce, where Mackintosh and his wife stayed.

More than 30 images of Mackintosh's painted landscapes have been placed on the route at the spots where they were created, from the Tech and Tet valleys to the Cote Rocheuse and the mountain plateaus of the Cerdagne.

Many of Mackintosh's French paintings were completed in Port-Vendres itself, a seaside town so beloved by the architect and artist that his ashes were scattered by his wife at its harbour.

"Comparing the real landscape side-by-side with Mackintosh's interpretation is a fascinating insight into seeing the world through the eyes of the artist," the Mackintosh Trail organisers said.

"Mackintosh picked his spots by finding somewhere that would protect him from the wind with a suitable rock to sit upon, so these location are usually not difficult to identify."

The trail has taken eight years to set up, with help from Glasgow University and Glasgow School of Art, and has attracted investment from the French government, the EU, the Languedoc Roussillon regional authority and the Pyrenees Orientales department.

This week's celebrations of the artist's links with the area will be marked by a procession led by a piper and Catalan dancers.

It is hoped the project, which was inspired by the Scottish film producer Robin Crichton and the Association Charles Rennie Mackintosh in France, will attract about 50,000 visitors a year.

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