A VILLAGE resident has laid claim to owning the only painted portrait in existence of the designer of Helensburgh's most famous landmark.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh (CRM) is renowned for being one of Scotland's finest architects and artists, having created the blueprints for the Hill House in the early-20th century - but few paintings exist capturing the man himself on the other side of the easel.

And this week Garelochhead local Jim Hill contacted the Advertiser to share the news that he may just have a rare piece of history on his hands.

Forty-five years after receiving a painted portrait as a house-warming gift from his sister, which she had purchased from an antiques shop on Great Western Road as it bore a striking resemblance to the siblings' father, Jim is attempting to clarify its authenticity as a genuine one-off.

He said: "I had the painting for several years until an art student friend of mine pointed out that it looked the double of the famous architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

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"Being awakened to the realisation of who the portrait could be, I went to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow to research the artist of the painting, William Pratt.

"While doing my research, I found out that William Pratt and Charles Rennie Mackintosh were closely associated. Both gentlemen frequently visited the same art club at Bath Street in Glasgow, where Pratt was a popular club member.

"They both also worked in this street where Pratt's studio was located, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh's office was.

"Around the late 1890s, I also found out that William Pratt was a teacher at the Glasgow School of Art part-time, where CRM's wife, Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh, was learning art.

"The painting was painted in 1896 by William Pratt in his studio in Bath Street and at that time CRM was out looking for work at great difficulty.

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"I believe these gentlemen were well associated at the time as CRM had a lot of time on his hands, giving ample time to get a portrait completed by William Pratt."

Mackintosh designed the Glasgow School of Art towards the end of the 19th century, establishing his international reputation, while the Hill House in Helensburgh, which followed less than a decade later, is widely regarded as his finest work.

Jim, 78, has been on a journey of discovery in recent years to research the painting's background - and he believes his prized possession could be a valuable collector's item - but would he ever consider selling it?

"Since I've done my research," he continued, "I've had numerous reputable art experts giving their opinion on my portrait, 70/30, which has backed my thoughts and beliefs on its authenticity.

"I have been offered moderate sums that I don't feel reflect its true value.

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"The only stumbling block I have come up against is that there is no documentation of this painting existing in William Pratt's history or CRM's.

"The reason behind this, I believe, was because of them being associates and the portrait was painted as a gesture of their relationship.

"I firmly believe this portrait is the only one in existence of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

"I am not an academic in any way, I'm a sheet metal worker, but this journey has made me appreciate guys with this kind of skill.

"I feel honoured to have it, but everything is for sale.

"If it is Mackintosh then the sky is the limit in terms of its value. A lot of people would be interested in it, especially if you're an architect yourself."

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