Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016

1.06.2009

Framing II

My parents inherited a painting that's a source of considerable disagreement between them. To Dad, it's just a stately landscape but for Mom it's a sea of black-green oil with indistinguishable forms.

Since it hung for decades in the living room of someone who smoked like a chimney, I have a hunch that the painting may simply be in need of a sensitive cleaning by a professional art conservator. Not knowing what might be beneath the grit, I have to say at this point I'm more intrigued with the frame.

As Caroline Clifton-Mogg explains, "antique frames are now recognized as an art form in themselves." Even vintage frames are highly desirable, and in some cases are more valuable than the paintings they surround.

Older frames were finished by hand, not by machine. Gilding was done with gold leaf (real gold hammered into ultra-fine sheets) that was applied to gesso-covered, well-sanded raw wood. Of course there are still moldings made today as period frames were, with handcrafted quality woods or intricate plaster work and labor intensive hand-gilding. Clifton-Mogg says that painstakingly crafted gold-leaf frames have a depth of color lacking in mass-produced moldings, and they retain their looks. But not surprisingly they are quite costly.

If you are game to give it a go, she provides instructions in her book for constructing a frame from scratch. Simple painted finishes and staining techniques are covered too. For gold-leaf tutorials I'd pick-up a current guide book at an art supply store.

It's not like me to post a nearly all-neutral room, but this arrangement of pictures and objects caught my eye. The intention was to achieve a quiet, harmonious look, so the frames are variations of gilded gold, and the art is very subdued in color. Texture and dimension come in with the range of media -- oils, sketches, cameos in relief -- and with the sculptural bracket. The tiny etched portrait is purposely hung close to the sofa because it's thought that art looks best when it has a connection to the furniture in a room.

In contrast, this arrangement offers a riot of stimulation.

Credits: Image two is Amelia Handegan's design as seen in Accents on Accessories. Image three is from Displaying Pictures. Image four is from Martha Stewart's Decorating Details, Oxmoor House, 1998. And the last picture is from Paris Rooms by Stephen Mudge, Rockport, 1999.

For a related past post, click here.


If you are intrigued by painting restorations, watch the related Sotheby's podcast available for free through iTunes. (Search for Sotheby's Private View, Restoring Rembrandt's St. James the Greater.)

23 comments:

hansaxel said...

Funny, because I just did a post on hanging matters...
http://blogs.elle.fr/hansaxel/2009/01/06/pendez-les-serres/
I love the "riot of frames" in the last pic... Without even seeing the artistic quality of each work, the impression is very elegant.

Style Court said...

Thanks for the link hansaxel.

Style Court said...

Just saw it Hansaxel -- strong image you started with! Helpful, thanks.

The Peak of Chic said...

I'm always on the search for antique frames, but inevitably I come away empty-handed. They are really rather hard to find... and they are very $$$!

Style Court said...

Very $$$!

Mike said...

Happy 2009 to you, Courtney. I don't believe that I've told you this year just how brilliant you and your blog is! You and your blog are wonderfully brilliant, Courtney! I love the subject matter, and the neutral room you posted was a lovely one. Victoria Hagan rose to public fame for her white on white rooms, all using different values of white and playing with texture. Of course, she has branched out, but there was a movement in the 90's that catipulted Hagan, as well as Holden and Dupuy, (which inpsired me to enter their world).

I love to use the frame on frame idea that you so lovely illustrated in the second photo from the top. And I love your inclusion of the 5th photo from the top. Ralph Lauren employed a similar design in his Bedford Estate, hanging art in his dining room in a glorious riot of thematic works--one that I also used in our own dining room to hide the art favored by my other half (Kincade), the same art that depresses my appetite and makes food ever so much less enjoyable in the very room designed for it's celebration. ;o)

I think it is a nifty trick for honoring disperate tastes, and keeping peace in the family.

Epicurean Jax said...

I love interesting frames, antique or not! I also like to buy ugly frames and repaint them. I love Goodwill. I do wish I could find more afforable antique frames though.

Style Court said...

Epicurian -- I think painting inexpensive frames can be a great alternative. And you never know what treasure you might find at Goodwill!

Style Court said...

Mike -- you are too kind!

I think you have a great point about Victoria Hagan and "the Anne's" and their use of neutrals.

Also, thanks for reminding me about Ralph's dining room -- perfect example! Sounds like you have some of those couple's issues Emily talked about in the collecting post :)

Mrs. Blandings said...

The arrangement from Stewart's book is exactly what I'm hoping for for the office. Except, obviously, not neutral. Unless you consider red a neutral, which some do. Adoring this series.

Style Court said...

Red is my neutral! Can't wait to see your office evolve.

Karena said...

I love these frames. Roma and Larson Juhl hand gild and finish many of their frames, and yes it is very time consuming and thus expensive!

pve design said...

The frame is like icing on the cake.

As always you are brilliant in they way you can make us all want beautifully framed collections in antique frames.

We have had many paintings restored in the city.
A wonderful transformative process. My son when he was too little to know better damaged a family painting not once but twice. Cursed, I tell you.
Perhaps restoration or framing lie in his future.

columnist said...

These "free form" hanging arrangements are great, and much more difficult to achieve than symmetrical, but when done well, as with both your examples, they do look fantastic. I'm more inclined to the symmetrical personally, but that's just a preference. Fascinating posts on framing.

Style Court said...

Columnist -- yes, good point! Symmetrical is another alternative. Usually brings order and harmony to a room. Glad you find this topic interesting.

Style Court said...

Thanks Patricia VE! That's so funny about your son. Sounds like you have a lot of experience with restoration (and probably framing too, as an artist)

Style Court said...

Great brands to include Karen!

Mélanie said...

I'm specialised in old mediterranean paintings and I'm always looking for antiques frames. I have an interesting collection but I have to admit I never have the right one , because of the style or of the size ...
Your post inspired me , I may write one about my funny collection and my love for frames

Style Court said...

Melanie, I'm sure we would all enjoy hearing about your collection.

Renee Finberg said...

unfortunately you are so right on about the frames being worth more than the art.

have you tried to get something framed lately ?
even new frames are ridiculous.

very nice post, i love art related post.

Style Court said...

Framing is incredibly expensive, whether the moldings are high-end or not, I agree! Will be mentioning this in my next post :)

Paul Pincus said...

courtney, this post was seriously brilliant! instructive, too.

The tiny etched portrait is purposely hung close to the sofa because it's thought that art looks best when it has a connection to the furniture in a room.

agreed!

i understand why columnist is more inclined to the symmetrical. i'm like that! i've been known to walk around our home with a leveler months after a work was installed. but, i'm a kinda dotty ; )

Style Court said...

Thanks Paul! I'm having technical snags with blogger at the moment, but something about symmetry is in the works!