Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Well, there it is. It's finished and in its frame. It looks great. Next week, the curtain comes off at 7pm at 2216 Rosa Road in Schenectady.

No one ever buys a painting because of its frame--except perhaps Rowan Atkinson--but a bad frame can really turn people off. Good framing is an art in itself, so I was happy to take the painting to the Clement Gallery in Troy and rely on their expertise.

Today framing happens after a painting has been completed, but this hasn't always been the case, and indeed is only possible when convention dictates a simple frame. When frames were more ornate, artists such as Millet, or even Van Gogh, preferred to put this finishing touches on their paintings after framing "I can only finish in a frame," Vincent wrote to his brother Theo. Gold has always been a popular choice for picture framing, either imitated or with the application of leaf. A beautiful painting was a treasure, and a gold frame drew attention to that fact. The purpose of leaf has always been to imitate solid gold. So modern frames that leave the edges of the leafing visible, reflect our preference for the appearance of age, whereas in centuries past it would have meant shoddy workmanship.

Today smaller frames are popular, but that has a lot to do with the convention of hanging a single work on the wall with plenty of breathing room. The "white cube" of Brian O'Doherty being the dominant aesthetic for the past 40 years. Within the last decade, this preference for extreme neutrality surrounding the artwork has meant that artists often frame their work in white frames. This would have been unheard of a generation ago, but now you can't swing a dead cat in Manhattan or Brooklyn without hitting contemporary art in a white frame. During the 18th and 19 centuries it was rare for a single work to be given such primacy on the wall. It would be an understatement to call the exhibitions cluttered. Artists fought for attention by building larger and more elaborate frames--it was the only way you could ensure space between the spot where your painting ended, and another bagan. To have one's work alone on a wall was a rarity, and artists took advantage of such occasions as they presented themselves. While he probably thought of the painting as one component of a beautifully crafted room, the egotistical painter in me likes to believe that Whistler designed an entire room as a "frame" for one of his paintings.

While the fashion of framing has changed over time, but they essentially serve the dual purpose of protecting the edges of the artwork and, in absorbing the weight of the painting itself. Of course, that is the bare minimum a frame can accomplish. I think that a frame should call the work out from the wall and subtly compliment it's coloring, without looking "matchy." It should have an elegant and understated formality or professionalism, much like a classically cut suit, or Chanelle's timeless little-black-dress. For the painting St. Kateri Tekakwitha in God's Creation, the committee and I picked out an elegant wood frame that brings out the natural luminosity of the painting, and will mesh well with the environment of the church.

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