Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Picture Perfect

Finishing a painting or drawing is one of the more pleasurable moments in the creative process -as you probably can imagine. The job is done plus I get to make a trip to the framer. A double bonus, because I also enjoy doing the latter.
I see framing as a part of my work. It is the epilogue of my painted story and it has to compliment the picture without taking its place in the spotlight. I feel my work benefits from Baroque styled, gold-coloured frames or dark-coloured Spanish profiles. Black or dark brown's emphasize the mystery, gold gives it an exclusive touch. Curls, leaves, or decorated with a subtle pattern, a characterful frame continues the story beyond the painted edges of my artwork.

I found a book with some inspirational examples; 'In Perfect Harmony', on paintings and their remarkable (and/or original) framing. It features frames from the period 1850 to 1920, that were customized to fit a certain piece or created by the artists themselves. The book takes a closer look at pictures and framing from the Victorian High Renaissance era but also the works of Klimt, Degas, Seurat and many others. It mentions for example that Vincent van Gogh only considered a painting finished when it was framed; without it was still 'in the raw'. He and many of his contemporaries looked at a picture and frame as a whole and choose their own framing or had it custom made. Some examples;

First photo; Franz von Stuck, 'Salome' c.1906. 'The gilded frame is divided into four equally wide rectangular fields, each one bordered by a wave moulding. The panels, joined at right angles, were decorated by Stuck with a pediment, columns, and a base'...

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 'Fair Rosamund', 1861. 'The low-relief decoration overlaps the frame's edges in an S-shape, thereby creating half-circle indentations. Ford Maddox Brown referred to these as Rossetti's 'thumb mark pattern'... This painting is not one of my favorites but I do like the plane, gold, inside part of the frame, which functions like a matting.

Gustav Klimt, 'Judith and Holofernes', 1901. 'Gustav Klimt sketched this painting a number of times with a frame (...). It is thus clear that from the very beginning picture and frame were conceived as a unit. The frame was probably carried out by Klimt's brother Georg, a metal sculptor. It is partially clothed in sheet copper; the title occupies the broad upper horizontal moulding. (...) The title, low-reliefs ornaments, spirals and waves are embossed'.

Fernand Khnopff, 'Avec Verhaeren, Un Ange', 1889. 'According to 'Les Artistes de la pensée et du sentiment', published in Brussels in 1911, this painting represents 'the struggle of Idealism against Materialism'. The 'angel' an imposing figure wearing a suit of armour, symbolizes Idealism, while Materialism is embodied in the sphinx. Both are raised on a socle within the painting; its strict subdivision into vertical and horizontal elements is repeated on the frame. (...) Acanthus leaves have been applied to the relief ornament at regular intervals. The colour of the frame -here silver- is, as in other works by Khnopff, related to the delicate tones found in the painting'.

Jan Toorop, 'Song of the Times' 1893. (...) The drawing (...) depicts Cain (on the far left) and Abel (on the far right); next to each are figural symbols of Good and Evil, while the central position is occupied by an androgynous person, pressing a sphinx-like creature to the ground. The lines which surround these figures are continued without interruption on the frame, a broad flat type that slopes toward the canvas. To the left, lines head to the lower part of the frame, 'into the earth' and Death; these same lines rise up on the right into the starry sky'.

Photo's & quotes; In Perfect Harmony, Picture & Frame 1850-1920, by Eva Mendgen. ISBN 90-400-9729-1


  1. Nice! Every picture tells a story, but thoughtful framing enriches its context. Great framers, like great artists look at the world through a different lens. My framer Susie and her wooly dog China are a bit gonzo, but I love them. She's like a miner digging for gold trying to find just the right nugget that will set off the latest addition to my crazy collection.

  2. Haha! Mine's quite a character as well. It sounds like Susie's got a sister from another mother over here.