Self-portraits of artists

Self-portraits of Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, and Vincent Van Gogh framed with ImageFramer

We seldom think about how the frame affects our impression of an artwork. Most of the canvases in museums and galleries are framed, but on the Internet and in art catalogs, paintings are usually reproduced without framing. If you could ask the authors of these masterpieces if they agree on such an approach, the answer might surprise you. Many believed that sometimes the frame becomes such an important part of the painting that the picture completely changes its meaning without it. Throughout the history of art, many great painters framed their pieces themselves. They have drawn sketches of the frames that were made to order from trusted frame shops, and also taken part in the frames’ manufacture and refinement. Sometimes framed canvas themselves became an object of art. “The paintings inscribed in the paintings” was a favorite technique of Dutch artists in the 16th-17th centuries. Perhaps the quintessence of such an artistic approach is the set of ten paintings “Archduke Leopold William in his Gallery at Brussels” by David Teniers the Younger.

Artworks produced by Raphael Santi

Renaissance paintings produced by the great master Raphael Santi

Renaissance artists often created the frame at the same time as the painting. Young Raphael Santi in faraway Italy painted the “Madonna of Conestabile” onto boards in 1504. Realizing that his masterpiece could not be framed, he immediately enclosed his artwork in a painted frame with a unique grotesque pattern. The shades of color and gilding of the frame matched the color of the portrait: the blue color is the same shade as the Madonna’s cloak, and the gold is like the glint of the sun on the Infant’s skin. In 1990, the Metropolitan Museum of Art organized an exhibition entitled “The Frames of the Italian Renaissance,” which was entirely devoted to picture frames of that era. Throughout the museum halls, visitors found themselves in a very unusual atmosphere: room by room, only empty frames looked at them from the walls.

Empty Frames

Empty frame designs featured in ImageFramer

Several years later, the exhibition “Regards sur les Cadres” (“Looking at Frames”) was put together in the Louvre. Charlotte Chastel-Rousseau, a curator in the Department of Paintings of Louvre said, “The frame must valorize the painting. With a successful frame, you don’t see the frame. But if a frame is too weak, or not up to the level of the painting, it seems improperly hung.” Frames continue to experience a resurgence of appreciation and respect from both museums and collectors. (Read more in “The New York Times” article “Letting the Frame Speak for the Artist and the Era”.)

Artworks produced by Pissarro and Degas

Impressionist paintings produced by Camille Pissarro and Edgar Degas framed with ImageFramer

The real revolution in picture framing was due to the Impressionists. They were young, poor, and not inclined to follow the standards, including framing rules. In 1877, Pissarro and Degas exhibited their paintings in white rather than gilded frames, and in 1879 and 1880, colored frames that complemented the colors of the paintings appeared. The new frame shapes were equally avant-garde and simple. (Read more about the Impressionists and their framing style in the article “FRAME WATCH: Framing the Impressionists, part 1“ by Paul Mitchell.) Only one painting by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890; Dutch) in its original frame survived to our days, Still Life with grapes, pears and lemons, 1887. The artist used a simple wooden frame and painted it different shades of yellow. Interestingly, Van Gogh originally picked this frame for a different artwork, on top of which the still life is painted.

Artworks produced by Vincent Van Gogh

Paintings produced by Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh created frames for many of his paintings. For example, we can still find the reproduction of one of those destroyed in Japan in 1945, “Sunflowers”. The frame has various shades of orange—bright where it passes over the sky-blue background of the picture, and pale where the lilac table with sunflowers is depicted. Such a frame was a fundamentally new element in 1888 when the painting was created. In those days, paintings were usually hung in gilded or white frames. (Read more about how Van Gogh’s art was framed in the article “Framing Van Gogh” by Ursula Hobson.) Edgar Degas (1834-1917; French) possessed a well-known passion for picture frames. The painter always framed his pieces personally and couldn’t stand it if his artworks were reframed. He was even known on at least one occasion to have taken back a previously gifted painting simply because it was reframed not to his liking. Unfortunately, few original Degas frames survived to this day. We can, however,  find more than forty original frame sketches in the artist’s notebook. Degas not only studied frames, but also designed his own shapes. (Read more about Degas framing style in the article “Degas’s Frames for Dancers and Bathers”)

Artworks produced by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Artworks produced by James Abbott McNeill Whistler framed with ImageFramer

The American painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) also manufactured frames for his paintings and even signed them with little butterflies of different colors. (Read more about personal signature on the Whistler’s frames in” A Flight  Of Whistler Butterflies”.) One of his famous pieces that we can see in its original frame went down in history under the name “Whistler’s Mother.” The portrait was painted in a strict, concise manner, and the artist considered it necessary to emphasize the details of the picture that are not so noticeable in the frame decoration. For example, the wedding ring on the mother’s hand has exactly the same shade as the gilding of the frame. Gustav Klimt (1862-1918; Austrian) is another great example of the frame’s influence in art. His paintings cannot be viewed separately from their original frames. The first version of the frame for “Judith I” was made by the artist’s brother, jeweler Georg Klimt, by chance. The ornament in the picture was also transferred to the frame. Many paintings of early Klimt were born precisely under the influence of their future frame. -First, the artist’s brother brought him a frame, and then the picture itself was created. Klimt believed that the painting should flow into the surrounding space, merging with reality.

ImageFramer 4: Your art. Showcased.

Download the best-in-class Mac app for adding photorealistic frames and mats to photos and artwork today.

To feel on a par with great painters, many artists meticulously select or even make the frame for their artworks. Some artists do not trust the framing workshops and manufacture the frames personally, while artists in a digital world use various applications that help them to create digital frames and borders. For example, ImageFramer has hundreds of frame and mat options that can be changed according to your taste and mood of your artwork. You can choose one of the fancy classic, modern, or unique and funny frames and easily change their width, color, and design elements. Learn more about all of ImageFramer’s frame choices here, then download today to give it a try!