Featured Frame of the Week!

This week’s featured frame is an American gilt composition frame, featuring a leaf-and‐berry top and a panel of intermittent rosettes connected by a geometric stylized design, created by the Philadelphia- based firm of G. Sauter. This piece exemplifies the artistic interest in stylized, ornamental designs and embellished surfaces seen during the late 19th century’s Aesthetic Movement.

Composition frames had grown popular throughout the century because they were easier to manufacture and worked with a variety of designs. The geometric motifs in this frame display the influence of architect and celebrated frame-maker Stanford White, who incorporated architectural design motifs and used European and Asian ornamental forms for inspiration. Most of the time, White designed a frame specifically for an artist or an architectural design project, such as in his collaborations with the American painter Thomas Wilmer Dewing.

This Stanford White frame complements Abbott Thayer’s Angel with its complex tabernacle design (image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)

With our vast collection of antique American frames and our personal knowledge of the period’s history, Lowy leads the way in preserving the frames that shaped 19th century American art.

The Evolution of Gilding

Gold, one of the most malleable and permanently shiny metals on earth, has been worked by artists and creators since at least the sixth millennium B.C.E. A function of the material’s stable chemical structure and geological rarity, gold has secured statuses ranging from an embodiment of luxury to a protector of sensitive industrial components.

one of Lowy's many spectacular gold frames

Alas! Because gold is soft, rare and expensive, objects made entirely of gold are extraordinary and uncommon. The 500-year-old process of gilding was developed to produce decorative arts objects that give the illusion of solid gold. At Lowy we continue the tradition by starting with gold that has been hammered into very thin sheets known as gold leaf. And we do mean thin — 1/250,000″ or less! Such thin material is possible because gold has a uniquely fluid, and therefore very strong, bonding structure. The gold leaf is most commonly applied over a covered wood substrate with a glue and chalk ground. Ancient cultures such as the Egyptians and Greeks covered objects in a thick layer of gold before gold leaf was invented.

Lowy’s master gilder, R. Wayne Reynolds, demonstrates the flexibility of gold leaf to a panel of admirers

Check back at The Lowy Blog over the next several weeks for our snapshot into the rest of the process. With a uniquely long history and deep knowledge about this traditional craft, Lowy is your master for magnificent gilded frames.

Featured Frame of the Week!

This week’s frame is a fantastic early 18th century French Régence frame with demi centers and corners. Master artisans spent many months designing, carving and gilding these by hand.

18th century frame

A frame such as this would have been used on French paintings of the period, such as Louis Le Nain’s Peasants Taking a Meal.

Le Nain Peasant's Meal
Louis Le Nain, Peasants Taking a Meal (image courtesy of Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe at Sweet Briar College, http://www.witcombe.sbc.edu)

During the 19th century, dealers often used ornate frames of this type to decorate French Impressionist paintings, balancing the picture’s sensuous and painterly expressiveness with the frame’s structured embellishment and intricate patterning.

Short History of Cobalt Blue

Also known as Thénard’s blue, cobalt blue has appeared on objects, frescos, ceramics and glass since antiquity. Painters and painting enthusiasts today know it as a distinctive and warm yet deep complement to ultramarine, phthalo, manganese and other blues.

The pigment’s nickname comes from chemist Louis Jacques Thénard, who discovered a stable version of the material in 1802. Before that time, artists using cobalt worked with the appropriately named Smalt, an unstable pigment derived from cobalt ore and developed during the 16th century. Little is known about the production behind earlier appearances of the color.

Independent of process, cobalt blue has been popular among figurative and landscape painters such as Vincent Van Gogh, Maxfield Parrish and Giambattista Tiepolo. Contemporary installation artist Eve Laramee even covered the floor of an entire room with Cobalt-colored glass in her piece Requiem for a Blue Field. Beyond fine art, the color is used in ophthalmology, both as a filter in ophthalmoscopes and as a dye used to detect corneal ulcers and scratches.

Vincent Van Gogh’s The Yellow House has received notice from critics about its use of Cobalt. (image courtesy of artnewsblog.com)

What do you think of Cobalt blue? Tell us in the comments.

Picasso’s Frame Preference

Most art enthusiasts know that Pablo Picasso revolutionized the painted image, inaugurated Modernism and created a taste for geometric forms, bright colors and bold lines. True devotees are familiar with the artist’s preference for antique frames.

Picasso thought deeply about the frames for his pictures, preferring the antique Spanish variety to numerous contemporary alternatives. Most often these antique wooden frames are carved and sculptural, with compositions that blend ancient curvilinear and geometric shapes such as rosettes, interlocking leaf patterns and ridged seams. They are an enticing finish rather than an enclosing box.

This framed Picasso portrait shows how the artist liked to see his work displayed.

Picasso’s preference for antique frames should not surprise us, for he was a truly multidimensional artist also known for the wide range of his artistic pursuits. Outside of painting and sculpture, his projects include four complete production designs for the Ballets Russes, designs for menus and advertisements, and book illustrations for a number of his literary friends.

Any favorite Picasso frames? Tell us in the comments!