Frame of the Week – Framing with Light – The Hudson River School

This week’s featured work is a mid- to late 19th century American gilt composition cove frame with textured cove and fruit clusters at the corners.

0583 Fruit clusters accent the corners of this unique mid- to late 19th century American gilt composition cove frame

“The Hudson River School”, sometimes called the first school of American art, was a fraternity of 19th-century artists best known for their dramatic, grandly scaled depictions of American landscapes.

Thomas Cole, who was actually an English émigré, was the unofficial founder of the school, which also included Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, and Asher Durand.

Several of the artists lived on New York’s Hudson River – hence the school’s name – and they all painted natural scenes, mountains, valleys, rivers, forests and other wonders of nature, that captured the majesty and unspoiled beauty of the new American frontier.

The Hudson River was famous for its beautiful, often pinkish light and artists of the time were fascinated by it.  Their paintings were infused with that special light that was almost spiritual in effect.  This luminance inspired an offshoot of the Hudson River School, and its artists were aptly named “Luminists”.

Thomas Cole believed that “the frame is the soul of the painting,” and other Hudson River School artists shared his interest in finding, or constructing the perfect frame.

  0583 corner

Detail of corner ornament and textured cove of this week’s frame

Compo was used to create beautiful ornaments inspired by nature, which were applied to layered moldings of significant depth and width, intended to draw the eye into the perspective of the scene and reinforce the majesty of the paintings they encased.

For more information on this frame or any of the 5000 frames in Lowy’s collection, please visit www.lowyonline.com or call 212-861-8585.

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Featured Frame of the Week

This week’s featured frame is a rare 18th-century carved and gilt Louis XIV frame. Sumptuous and ornate, the frame reflects the aesthetics of Louis XIV, the flamboyant monarch who took the French throne in 1643. 

Rare 18th-century carved and gilt Louis XIV frame (5760)
Rare 18th-century carved and gilt Louis XIV frame (5760)

Beginning in the 17th-century, France was the epicenter of the art world, influencing framing styles as well as artistic output.  Heralded as the golden age of frame-making in Europe, the French court determined not only all manners of style and art, but also the decorative elements and shapes of frames.  Establishing the aesthetics of French frames were the succession of Louis, kings who ruled France for over one hundred years. Created by French master frame-makers who belonged to exclusive guilds of carpenters and cabinetmakers, frames during this period are often regarded as some of the most exquisite in the world.

Throughout his reign from 1643 until 1715, Louis XIV adored excessive and luxurious surroundings, which also affected the styles of frames. Illustrating his love for lavish settings, Louis XIV headquartered his court at the decadent Versailles, a gilded architectural masterpieces, containing some of the same opulence as seen in Louis XIV frames.

The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles (via chateauversailles.fr)
The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles (via chateauversailles.fr)

Detailed, bold and filled with organic ornamentation, frames of this period often include representations of fleur-de-lis and sunflowers in homage to Louis XIV and his nickname, the Sun King.

For more information on our 18th-century French frames and any of the 5000 frames in Lowy’s collection, please visit www.lowyonline.com or call 212-861-8585.

Featured Frame of the Week

This week’s featured frame is an American carved and gilt frame with corner and center flower-and-fruit clusters from the Boston-based American firm of Foster Brothers. Established in 1875 by Stephen Bartlett Foster and John Roy Foster, the brothers operated a factory, retail store and wholesale and mail order business from 1893 to 1942.

Foster bro

Along with the reeded top, interspersed straps, and foliate slight edge, this frame showcases the eclectic use of ornament in which the firm excelled. Combining patterns and embellishments derived from Byzantine, classical and Dutch motifs, Foster Brothers frames were refreshing and unmistakably modern. The brothers were entrusted to frame paintings by many important artists of the time, including Edmund Tarbell and William Paxton. Museums and connoisseurs preserve the historical accuracy of such works by pairing them with a Foster Brothers frame.

In a Garden, Edmund Tarbell (image courtesy of Milwaukee Art Museum)
In a Garden, Edmund Tarbell (image courtesy of Milwaukee Art Museum)

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

Featured Frame of the Week

This week’s featured frame is a rare Italian carved and gilt cassetta frame with a polychrome sgraffito frieze forming corners and centers. The frieze is made up of an acanthus pattern and complemented by rows of carved beaded ornaments.

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According to Greek mythology, the acanthus got its name from a beautiful wood nymph, Acantha, who was transformed into a spiny plant or tree by the god Apollo after she refused his romantic advances. The plant flourished in the Mediterranean, where it was first introduced as a design element. Acanthus leaves were extremely popular among artists and architects in ancient Greece and Italy, where they were used to adorn Corinthian capitals and other stonework.

A flowering of acanthus plants (image courtesy of The Smithsonian Institution)
A flowering of acanthus plants (image courtesy of The Smithsonian Institution)

The acanthus appeared in frame designs as early as the 15th century and has maintained its popularity among frame makers in different countries for hundreds of years. Imaginative interpretations of the leaf can be found on early Italian, Spanish and French frames and later on American frames of the 19th and 20th centuries. It was such a familiar symbol in the artistic world that when the Victorians developed the Language of Flowers, a dictionary of flowers and plants and the messages they communicated, the meaning ascribed to acanthus was “art” or “artifice.”

It took William Morris over 500 hours to complete his Acanthus and Vine tapestry design in 1879. (image courtesy of John Hopper’s Design Decoration Craft site)
It took William Morris over 500 hours to complete his Acanthus and Vine tapestry design in 1879. (image courtesy of John Hopper’s Design Decoration Craft site)

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

 

Featured Frame of the Week

This week’s featured frame is a Watts-style English composition frame. Working during the second half of the 19th century, G.F. Watts (1817-1904) was an artist associated with the Symbolist and Pre-Raphaelite painting movements. He is known for his massive mythological works and his emotive and unique portraits, as well as the signature frame he used to contain them.

WattsWatts’ frames feature a cassetta structure with gilt oak-veneered panels and applied rosettes. Sometimes punchwork or thin leaf patterns are used in the panels or moldings, but the overall layout is fixed. Because the gold is applied to the wood directly without gesso, the panel’s surface is less shiny and more textured than the composition frames that were frequently used at the time. In this and in the design’s delicate patterning, Watts’ frames show the Arts and Crafts movement’s influence through their celebration of natural forms. In fact, one of Watts’ frame in particular was produced to surround the artist’s portrait of William Morris, a renowned textile designer and artist who became one of the Arts and Crafts movement’s guiding forces.

G.F. Watts, William Morris (1834-96), 1870 (image courtesy of Watts Gallery)
G.F. Watts, William Morris (1834-96), 1870 (image courtesy of Watts Gallery)

For more information on Lowy’s collection of cassetta frames, Watts-style frames, or other pieces in our 5,000-frame inventory, please visit www.lowyonline.com or call 212-861-8585.

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.

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.