Patinas

The art critic John Ruskin wrote, “The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most. ” At Lowy Frame and Restoring Company, color enlivens the surface and texture of thousands of frames, which in turn enhances the mood and effect of the painting within.

To achieve various colors on gilded surfaces, we use patinas. A patina is a thin coat of tinted varnish applied gently over the gilded frame with a soft bristle brush and rubbed off with a cloth, resulting in a subtle coloration that mutes the gold’s sheen while fine-tuning its color to perfectly complement the palette of the art within.

 

Patinas are usually warm earth tones, such as yellow, tan, brown or red, although other colors, like the early 20th century’s gray casein, rose to prominence along with the au courant artistic movements.

Shown below are a variety of patinas applied to several different frame styles.

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For more information on Lowy’s framing services and our collection of more than 5,000 antique frames, please visit www.lowyonline.com or call 212-861-8585.

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Guide to Gilding: The Finish

Preparing an accurate historical reproduction frame is labor-intensive and can’t be rushed without compromising quality. Once the gold has been applied, Lowy’s team of gilders enters the home stretch: Burnishing, lacquering, and antiquing.

A frame can either be matte or polished to a fine, shiny finish. The process of polishing a gold leaf layer until it is shiny is called burnishing. The difference between a burnished frame and an un-burnished one is quite pronounced, as you can see from the examples below.

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The very shiny frames, such as those at the edges of this photo, are burnished. The frame at center right is matte.

As with carving or applying gold, burnishing can take a long time – two and a half hours are needed to complete even a small 25” x 24” frame! Burnishing can be done uniformly or in a decorative pattern. To burnish, we use an agate stone tool to apply pressure over the surface of the gold, and it becomes shiny.

After the gold is burnished, a piece of cloth is often rubbed over the frame, allowing the colored clay base to peek through. This thinning of the gold layer is called the rub through, and it makes the frame look authentic. The surface is then coated with a clear sealer such as shellac, which protects the gold, making it last longer and creating a smooth, aesthetically pleasing surface. After the sealer is dry, we have the option to apply a patina to the surface in burnt umber, raw umber, white or black. The patina makes the frame look as if it has aged over the years from a newly made object into a storied antique. We think such historical objects, even when they are imitations, give a room character and comfort. Our clients choose whether or not we apply a finish as well as what kind.

 
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This concludes our guide to gilding, but stay tuned for other topics in framing and fine art services! For more information about Lowy’s world-renowned frame reproduction abilities, along with our collection of 5,000 unique antique frames, please call 212-861-8585 or visit http://www.lowyonline.com.

Stopping the Time Warp

The Art Deco artist Jean Dupas created forms using a bold, structural visual style. Lowy recently conserved and framed his Allegorie de Tissu, or “allegory of fabric,” featuring a whirling mélange of cylindrically constructed figures, both draped and nude, either reclining, standing or leaping. Big, bold and brave, this nearly eleven-foot canvas testifies to both the artist’s ambition and his compositional skills, and the frame showcases what Lowy’s expert craftsmen can do on a large scale.

Jean Dupas’ Allegorie de Tissu in a custom Lowy frame, 40” x 129”
Jean Dupas’ Allegorie de Tissu in a custom Lowy frame, 40” x 129”

As framers and art connoisseurs know, wood changes naturally over time from a straight line into a subtle curve. This means that an especially large frame must be structured in a way that prevents it from twisting and warping. For the Dupas frame, Lowy’s team of frame designers collaborated to replace a portion of the wood support with an aluminum c-channel and steel brackets to join the miters. The result is a gilded frame that will withstand time. The metal supports are virtually un-bendable and provide a critical substrate for this type of frame.

Lowy’s master gilder, R. Wayne Reynolds, screws in the miter
Lowy’s master gilder, R. Wayne Reynolds, screws in the miter

The frame is also reversible at the miters so that it will fit through the client’s entryway.

A look at the frame’s mount and miter, complete with steel bracket and aluminum c-channel
A look at the frame’s mount and miter, complete with steel bracket and aluminum c-channel

As the Allegory de Tissu proves, no challenge is too massive for Lowy’s master framers. For more information about reproduction or conservation services, or our collection of more than 5,000 antique frames, please call 212-861-8585 or visit www.lowyonline.com.

Guide to Gilding: Applying the Gold

Now that we have our substrate ready to go, the time has come to apply gold to the frame. The gold is the tomato in the salad, the omelet’s goat cheese, or the chocolate for the cake. It’s both essential and exciting.

To get started, one of the gilders at Lowy Frame and Restoring Co. sets up the workspace with brushes, a gilder’s knife, gilder’s liquor and booklets of gold leaf around the prepared frame. The gold leaf comes in boxes of 500 sheets, separated by very thin tissue paper. The purity of the gold can range from six to twenty-four karats, and it is common for us to work with both white and traditional yellow gold. Whether restoring an existing frame or applying an entirely new finish, the frames at Lowy are a product of art history and aesthetic preferences.

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The gilder starts at the corner of the frame. He or she will cut a section from the booklet of gold leaf with a gilder’s knife on a leather pad. The width and shape of these sections are dictated by the size and pattern of the frame. Very thin pieces are required for the most ornate schemes, while larger rectangles can be used for flat panels. When the gold leaf is cut, the gilder uses a brush to pick up the leaf and lay it on the frame. The brush is about three inches wide and made from very soft squirrel hair, weighing less than an empty paper cup. A gilder must be practiced and steady-handed to apply this layer properly because gold leaf is an unforgiving material. Once the leaf has been placed, the gilder uses a sable brush to paint a layer of gilder’s liquor over the gold. Gilder’s liquor is a combination of water, alcohol and gelatin glue, which when used by a gilder to adhere gold leaf to the frame produces a bond that can last hundreds of years.

The skills, experience and understanding of Lowy’s gilders and their knowledge of traditional materials used in gilding make us a great resource for your framing needs.

Guide to Gilding: Preparing the Surface

Lowy’s antique and reproduction frames represent various historical periods from the 15th through 20th centuries. The process of creating a gilded reproduction frame starts with the entire frame designed on paper, which is then carved in wood. Wood is one of the most common and useful substrates for gilding because it is stable over time and because it is true to traditional techniques. In accordance with fashion, culture and custom, frame makers have worked in a variety of woods such as pine, poplar, oak and limewood. In the 19th century, the newly developed material called composition, a thick moldable mix of rabbit skin glue, whiting, linseed oil and rosin, gained popularity for its ability to mass produce ornament. Composition made it possible to make complex frames with many different designs because the ornament could be cast into molds and applied to the frame, instead of being hand carved.

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Even when elegantly carved, bare wood is irregular and must be smoothed before applying gold. First, we apply a layer of rabbit skin glue to ensure that bonds will form properly. Then, we brush on 10-12 coats of warm liquid gesso, a protective covering typically made from calcium carbonate or calcium sulfate, water, rabbit-skin glue and sometimes linseed oil. After the gesso dries, it is sanded. Next, we apply layers of traditional bole, a fine particle clay also mixed with rabbit skin glue. The bole, which is usually yellow, red or grey, will over time start to show its color through the gilding due to abrasion of the finish. When applying these base layers, gilders must balance even coverage with maintaining detail, keeping the original design intact. Sometimes this requires that we recut the design by carving back into the gesso layer to redefine or augment the ornamentation.

In this 17th century Italian frame, red clay is visible through the finish.
In this 17th century Italian frame, red clay is visible through the finish.

Lowy has facilities for antique frame reproduction, carving and gilding. That’s one of the reasons why we have been sought out for frame fabrication and restoration projects for such a long list of venues, ranging from government buildings to private collections and public exhibitions. If you would like more information, please ask! And stay tuned for the rest of our series on gilding.

Outside The Scream

Been hearing a lot about the top dollar seller The Scream by Edvard Munch, sold last night at Sotheby’s for almost 120M dollars? Lowy was entrusted with fitting the priceless work of art with the appropriate glazing and acid free materials, and ensuring that the frame was in top notch condition.

Framing an Exhibition

Over the years, Lowy has often been called upon to frame a collection of works by a particular artist for various galleries and exhibitions.  This presents a unique framing challenge: how to frame each individual work of art while creating a cohesive presentation for the group of paintings.

Two such recent shows include Jacob Collins  and Shirl Goedike, both exhibited at Adelson Galleries on East 82nd Street in Manhattan.

Larry Shar mingles with Warren & Jan Adelson & guests at the Shirl Goedike opening.

With both shows, Lowy was able to provide frames for each work, which not only suited each painting itself, but also brought together the ambiance of the show and connected the works to one another.  As so aptly put by Larry Shar, President of Lowy, “The key to framing an exhibition of contemporary artists is to choose architecturally appropriate moldings that work in the space and on the art; with sympathetic patinas that compliment the artist’s palette making for pleasant viewing  and enhancement of the artwork”.

Have a look at some examples:

Photos by John Bigelo Taylor, Courtesy of Adelson Galleries, NY.