A picture frame is the perfect accompaniment to a great painting which, when done well, brings the artwork to life. Without it a picture can look unfinished or less than its potential. However, what makes a frame work for an art piece? Here, Alex Foster of The Caversham Picture Framer, offers his advice taking a look at some examples from our Fine Art Timed Online Auction running from 10-26 August 2022.
There is no simple answer, and everything depends on personal taste and circumstance. As the Director of The Caversham Picture Framer in Reading with a Masters in Art History, I have an interest in frames and their effects. I particularly enjoy period frames and how they work in the context of the artwork they surround.
Picture frames tend to follow at least one of three categories: Interior Design, Art Historical Importance or Artistic Harmony. The choice of frame depends on the owner, but a really successful picture frame integrates all of these categories - Vittorio Gussoni (1893-1968), La Donna in Lettura, oil on board (Lot 204) is one such example.
Lot 204: Vittorio Gussoni (1893-1968), La Donna in Lettura, Oil on board | Est. £400-600 (+ fees)
This is an absolutely perfect example of framing. It hits all three categories perfectly. The shape and form of this frame is a lovely example of an early twentieth or late nineteenth century frame. In England the classic example would be a ‘Watts’ frame. These are defined as two highly carved floral bands connected by a broad field of gilded wood. This large field would normally reveal the grain of the wood, usually oak. This frame, possibly of Italian origin, is not a Watts frame but incorporates the same structure and Aesthetic Movement sensibilities. It has a band of intricately carved vines and berries running around the outer edge, and the broad gilded field highlights the natural wood grain. The joins in the frame are not mitred (45 degrees) but squared off and deliberately visible, celebrating the craftsmanship behind the work. On the inner edge of the frame, instead of another carved band, simple fine ribs reflect the classical composition of the artwork.
The frame is beautifully proportioned for the artwork. The slip (the inner white frame) is designed to give breathing space between the gilt frame and the painting. Without it the picture can look overwhelmed. The framers have developed a sense of enhanced perspective with a series of steps down from the outside of the frame down into the picture, which helps funnel your vision into the artwork, making you look in closer at the figure reading. Lastly, the pale yellow of the gold masterfully reflects and enhances the yellow tones of the reader's skin and dress.
This frame is the right period for the artwork, is in harmony with the painting, and was a frame designed for an interior of the day. It would work timelessly in any collector’s home.
What do you do if the artwork you have does not have a frame yet? Frame it with all of these aspects in mind, but most importantly choose something you like!
Lot 5: Contemporary School (20th/21st Century), 'Weils of Light', acrylic on canvas | Est. £200-400 (+ fees)
Looking at Lot 5, Contemporary School (20th/21st century), Weils of Light, as an example, this is what I would do. First frame the artwork with a slip as well as a frame to keep the artwork open, not enclosed. Choose a pale slip colour that is in harmony with the colours in the painting and certainly not lighter than the highlights (those need to stay in the picture). I would choose a relatively square profile outer frame because this is in keeping with the abstract aesthetic of the artwork. Perhaps include a bevelled edge, if you want to draw the eye deeper into the picture and feel a little detail would help. Lastly, choose a colour for the outer frame which is prominent in the painting. The colour chosen will increase the prominence of that tone. Therefore, if you like the warmth, choose a yellow brown tone; if you want to highlight the colder tones, choose a cold grey; whereas to make the piece more intense choose a darker colour. The end result will be a framed work that speaks to you, is in keeping with its period, and works in your interior.
This is a Timed Online Auction running from 10-26 August 2022.
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