Framing Old Master Paintings - Paul Mitchell Ltd

Avant-garde art generally overtook prevailing frame styles often clashing with mass produced ornament and bright gilding. Some of the most harmonious results are achieved by imaginative use of old master frames whose classical proportions and stylized ornament possess a timeless quality, demonstrated by the first three paintings below.

PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903)

Why Are You Angry?  (No Te Aha Oe Riri),1896

The Art Institute of Chicago

So ‘modern’ looking is the undulating stem and stylized foliage of this Italian Renaissance frame that it could appear to have been designed by Gauguin himself.

Before

After

PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)

Harlequin, 1888-90

National Gallery of Art, Washington

Excessive ornament on the previous French Baroque style frame conflicts with the subject. By contrast the simpler leaves of this Italian 17th century frame echo Harlequin’s costume. The figure is further animated by the frame’s forward projecting profile and outer ribbon. A case of less is more.

Before

After

VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890)

Roses, 1890

National Gallery of Art, Washington

The use of French Baroque portrait frames has long been a convenient formula for framing Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. Degree of success depends on frame’s design, quality and finish. Here, the previous frame was a reproduction of unsympathetic colour whose projecting corners and centres competed with the pattern of roses. An Italian 17th century frame similar to the Cézanne was acquired whose continuous ornaments and original water gilding resonated with the composition and palette.

Before

After

EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)

The Millinery Shop, 1879/86

Art Institute of Chicago

Degas was very particular about the framing of his works and designed several frame styles recorded in his notebooks. Previously in a reproduction pseudo-classical moulding frame, the presentation of this masterpiece was transformed by the acquisition of this rare 'Degas' style reeded frame with its vibrant original gilding.

Before

After

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)

Portrait of the Artist's Wife, Jean Hebuterne, 1918

Norton Simon Museum

This elaborate French Rococo frame reflects the dominance of French taste in the early 20th century to the point of suffocation. The clean lines and grey-green hue of this contemporary Artist's frame ideally complement the minimalist contours of the sitter and planes of colour. Ornament is banished and equilibrium restored.

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