Qualities Of Good Picture Framing Three qualities are essential for good picture framing; taste, proportion and craftsmanship in that order. In framing, it is difficult to err on the side of simplicity. Advantage should be taken of good tradition, but the needs of modern living must be kept in mind. The artist and craftsman should not be swayed by "fads" in framing such as covering a Victorian atrocity with whitewash and calling it "smart". The three requisites mentioned above can only be developed with time and through experience. However, if sufficient study is given to the picture before it is framed, errors will be reduced and better frames will result. Before either making or finishing the frame it should be remembered that the proportions, that is, the width and depth or "profile" of the molding is of more importance than the finish. It is much easier to commit the fault of "over-framing" a picture than it is to make the frame too plain or narrow. The following general rule should always be borne in mind: The more elaborate, colorful or detailed the picture, the simpler should be the frame and vice versa. A monotonous effect can be avoided easily by giving the frame an interesting textural finish or by decorating it with a continuous line of geometrical shapes. These should be based on the seven primary forms so well outlined in the book 'A Method for Creative Design' by Adolfo Best-Maugard. Applied singly or in combination, along the outside, the inside, on the face or a raised portion of the molding, the decoration will be unobtrusive and yet provide interest. The combinations of carving, texture and color are almost endless, therefore no picture need be without its individual, perfect finish. Ideas On framing Different Types Of Art A few words on present day, conventional picture framing might be in order, but just a few. Extended discussion of contemporary methods of framing would be wasted; styles and fashions in frames will undoubtedly change in a relatively short time. Therefore, the following are only general indications of how pictures in various mediums are ordinarily framed at the present time. Original prints in black and white such as etchings, lithographs, etc., are usually matted in white, off-white or cream mats and framed with glass in very narrow Moldings of natural wood or black. A narrow gold line is sometimes added to relieve the severity of the black frame. Original color prints, as distinguished from reproductions, such as color wood blocks, colored etchings or lithographs and serigraphs are also matted and then framed in narrow Moldings with glass. More latitude in the use of color in both mats and frames for this type of picture is becoming increasingly popular. Watercolors are usually put in proportionately larger mats and the frames are somewhat wider. Glass is always used with watercolors. Frames for them are still being made in simple, natural wood or painted finishes, but with the tendency to give the medium the importance it deserves, they are often as heavy, decorated and textured as are those for oil paintings. The frames for pastels are similar to the ones used for watercolors, except that they are matted only when necessary. Glass is always used, as is a concealed insert to separate the picture from contact with the glass surface. Oil paintings are framed closely except for the occasional use of extra-wide inserts, which give the appearance of mats. It has been popular lately to employ less ornamentation and gilding and to bring the finish into closer relationship with the picture. Photographs may be given more importance on a wall by matting them. They are ordinarily framed close with glass in natural or stained wood, silver or gold. Fine reproductions of oil paintings, watercolors and prints are framed to resemble their originals. History Of Picture Framing The picture frame, as it exists today, is derived from the doorway or entrance to temples, palaces and cathedrals. From a functional viewpoint, it might have been more practical to place doors at the sides of these buildings, but the importance of the door framing an impressive picture of the interior was never overlooked. The need to enhance a picture or basrelief with a frame is evidenced from the earliest times. The first decorations were necessarily crude; a raised line sometimes being the only ornament. The earliest examples of frame-like decorations or borders bear a great resemblance to door frames. They were composed of two columns surmounted by a connecting entablature and this form persisted into the 15th century. Even the decorations painted by the artists around the edges of pictures before the introduction of movable frames were similar in form. As a matter of fact, frames without pictures eventually came into existence because the desire to embellish with moldings was so strong. Rooms in palaces were arbitrarily paneled with Moldings and their vestigial remains are to be seen today in the senselessly paneled walls of apartments in modern cities. Movable picture frames for "easel" paintings gained quickly in popularity once they were introduced. Besides the elaborate and intricate woodcarving, ebony, ivory, tortoise shell and mother of pearl were used for inlaid decoration. Gold, silver and every other metal have also been used for frames.
With the perfection of the technique of making large sheets of glass which were in turn used to cover and protect pictures, framemaking received a big impetus in the 17th century. In the 18th century, when cheaper mirrors were introduced, frames were in greater demand than ever. This century also saw an invention that was to revolutionize the art of frame decoration - that of the development of molded composition ornaments. The use of this easily handled material, which did away with the need for laborious and expensive hand-carving, drove artisans to other fields. Since then, there has been no large group of woodcarvers devoted solely to frame decoration. It is interesting to note that during the Renaissance period, when movable frames were first introduced, book decoration reached its highest form. Undoubtedly, the early carvers and framers, besides using architectural designs, took many of their ideas from early illuminated manuscripts. The frames of the Louis' periods certainly got their inspiration from typographical decorative motifs. Before then, architects and sculptors designed much of the scrollwork, but later goldsmiths were employed for decoration. Overelaboration became the order of the day until all forms were lost beneath the gingerbread. With the French revolution, people turned away from all evidences of bourgeois wealth and returnedto a refreshing simplicity. Until 1850 all Moldings were cut from rough boards by hand, but with the invention of laborsaving machinery, frames could be put on the market for what the raw material had cost previously. This country was fortunately spared from the use of molded ornaments until the advent of the Victorian era. American frames up to that time were relatively simple and dignified, very often using only natural, stained wood and a gilded insert The carving, when used, was restricted to the classical forms of ornamentation for specific molding shapes. The framemakers who constructed the monstrosities of the Victorian era were not content to put one heavily embellished gold frame around a picture of "The Stag at Bay" or something similar, but three or four. This birthday cake was then enclosed in a glass-covered, plush-lined, mahogany shadowbox. This was presumably for protection, but its need is a mystery since the interiors of that time were heavily shaded and hermetically sealed anyway. Around 1900 there was a fashion for "Oxford", plush and cork-decorated frames. Hours and hours were spent carving these horrors and fitting them intricately together or in decorating frames with segments of cork. They can be found only rarely today, even in the higher priced secondhand stores, euphemistically called "antique shops". But perhaps it is too early to drag out another "antique" vogue. Mass production, to some degree at least, has forced a healthy simplification. At the same time that heavy gilt frames were the vogue for oil paintings, a demand for polished,veneered oak and white enamel frames developed. In order to cheapen the cost of production, a fashion was instituted for bronze frames, i.e., frames finished with gold or silver paint. It did not last long, however, and simple, wide frames in black or dark brown wood of the Flemish type came into favor. "An inexpensive picture frame may be made by covering a plain pine frame with varnish, then sprinkling it lavishly with either sand, oatmeal or rice. When thoroughly dry, cover the whole surface with gold paint" - From a ladies magazine of 1894. As will be seen from this quotation, one of the causes of a great deal of misconception regarding proper framing is the damage which has been done by the "ideas" put forth in women's magazines and slick-paper decorators' journals. The attempts at being "cute" and "homey" in the women's magazines and the chi-chi attitude of being "smart" in the more expensive journals are on a par for bad taste. There is no reason to suppose that any of the suggestions they make today are any improvement basically over those advanced fifty years ago. Just as all decorative art continued in the doldrums until the influence of the "modern" art of the Paris Exposition of 1925 was felt, so picture framing had its minor ups and downs in design. In the late twenties there was a less hidebound attitude toward picture frames and color, in place of gilt or gloomy black, began to appear. Picture framing has lagged, to some extent, behind the advances made in the best of contemporary furniture design for example, but that is to be expected since the bulk of home furnishings produced in this country is in execrable taste. While the major part of the framing being done today is still in poor taste, one can avoid contributing to it by following a simple guide for good, conventional work. Always consider the finish of the frame first in relation to the picture and only later to the colors of draperies, furniture or walls. The result will be that if the picture itself is really suited to the room, the frame will also be harmonious. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules in framing, and at times a slight variation in hue or value will certainly not hurt the picture but may make it more in keeping with the interior for which it is destined.
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