Lowy and The Layton Collection featured in Fine Art Connoisseur

In the August issue of Fine Art Connoisseur, Editor-In-Chief Peter Trippi pens an article about the Milwaukee Art Museum celebrating its 125th anniversary.  Two of the exhibitions mounted to commemorate this milestone focus on Frederick Layton (1827 – 1919), an English immigrant to Wisconsin who made his fortune in the meatpacking industry, and put together an impressive art collection throughout his life, which he donated to the Museum, creating The Layton Collection.

To read the article, click here.

4803William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825 – 1905), Homer and his Guide, 1874, 82 ½ x 56 ¼” oil on canvas, gift of Frederick Layton to the Milwaukee Art Museum, with its new Lowy frame

As discussed in detail in our blogpost of May 3, 2013, Reframing Highlights of The Milwaukee Art Museum’s Layton Collection, Lowy had the honor of reframing several paintings in the Layton Collection in time for the anniversary.  One of the paintings was William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s Homer and his Guide, a large (82 ¼ x 56 ¼”) oil on canvas work dating to 1874.

Lisa Wyer, a senior Lowy consultant, selected an 1880s French gilt composition Barbizon-style frame with ogee profile and continuous finely detailed scrolling acanthus leaf ornamentation, almost identical in ornamentation to the original frame seen in archived photos.

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Detailed corner of the 1880s French gilt composition Barbizon-style frame selected to frame Bougoureau’s Homer and his Guide

For more information about the fine art framing and conservation services Lowy provides, please visit www.lowyonline.com or call 212-861-8585.

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.

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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.

Pairing Frames with 19th Century Art

Among the icons of Realism, Naturalism and other styles presented at Christie’s New York’s upcoming 19th Century European Art sale, Lowy worked with the auction house to match a selection of paintings with frames that augment the art’s already historically significant imagery.

Filled with artists such as Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet and Sir Alfred Munnings, Christie’s sale on April 29th presents some of the icons of 19th Century European art, ranging from France to England to Spain.

With that variation in styles and provenance, Lowy strove to combine these seminal works with likewise beautiful, as well as historically important, frames, linking the histories and ornamentation of the frames to the paintings.

Much of Christie’s 19th Century European Art sale consists of landscape paintings made during the development of Realism and Naturalism, which focused more on the representation of various social classes rather than the Neo-Classical ideal.

Gustave Courbet, Le Jardin de la Mère Toutain à Honfleur, oil on canvas, c.1859-1861 (Courtesy of Christie’s New York)
Gustave Courbet, Le Jardin de la Mère Toutain à Honfleur, oil on canvas, c.1859-1861 (Courtesy of Christie’s New York)

A rebellious and controversial artist in 19th Century France, Gustave Courbet, aside from creating masterpieces such as The Artist’s Studio: A Real Allegory of a Seven Year Phase in my Artistic and Moral Life, also depicted realistic, vibrant landscapes, as seen in Le Jardin de la Mère Toutain à Honfleur.

Painted circa 1859-1861 during a trip he made with writer and musician Alexandre Schanne, Courbet presents a charming, sun-tinged French countryside with extremely detailed trees and a quaint cabin.

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

In order to augment the natural beauty of Courbet’s landscape, Lowy combined Courbet’s iconic realism with the extravagant ornamentation of a18th-century carved and gilt Louis XIV frame. This rare Louis XIV frame reflects a similar connection to nature as Courbet’s landscape through its opulent carvings.

Emilio Sanchez-Perrier, A Summer Day on the River, oil on panel (Courtesy of Christie’s New York)
Emilio Sanchez-Perrier, A Summer Day on the River, oil on panel (Courtesy of Christie’s New York)

Similar to the connection between Courbet and the Louis XIV frame, Lowy perceptively paired Spanish artist Emilio Sanchz-Perrier’s A Summer Day on the River with a frame similar to his style of painting.

19th century gilded composition fluted cove frame (2250)
19th century gilded composition fluted cove frame (2250)

Known for his landscapes, genre paintings and water scenes, Sanchez-Perrier’s A Summer Day on the River presents a luminous scene of two subjects enjoying a summer day while boating.  Lowy chose to frame Sanchez-Perrier’s landscape in a 19th century gilded composition fluted cove frame, which features nature-inspired ornaments.  Adding depth through the frame, the fluted cove frames are often linked to the Hudson River School and their own sunlight-driven landscapes.

Moving from landscapes to one of England’s most famous and undeniably popular horse painters, Sir Alfred Munnings’s horse paintings feature heavily in Christie’s 19th Century European Art auction with four paintings up for sale.

Sir Alfred Munnings, The Whip, c.1922, oil on panel (Courtesy of Christie’s New York)
Sir Alfred Munnings, The Whip, c.1922, oil on panel (Courtesy of Christie’s New York)

Fascinated by horses and racing since the beginning of his career, Munnings treats the horses in his paintings with tremendous care, as seen in his The Whip.  Created while Munnings was living in Cornwall, The Whip portrays not only the detailed body and the form of the horse, but also its distinct expressions.  With less precise brushstrokes throughout the rest of the work except for on the horse’s face, Munnings reveals his concern for the horse as well as the light surrounding the horse and the rider.

19th century English Whistler-style frame (4029)
19th century English Whistler-style frame (4029)

In order to not overshadow his simplistic yet sensitive painting, Lowy placed the painting in a 19th century English Whistler-style frame.  Mirroring the period and the provenance of Munnings’s painting, the frame is not ornate but, more simplistic and graceful, reflecting Munnings’s treatment of the horse.

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

The Empire Style

Reflecting the aesthetic and political aspirations of France under Napoleon’s leadership, the Empire style combines subtle textures with opulent patterns. As in the frame below, which juxtaposes leaf motif, front bead, and flat panel, objects during this period cultivated elegance in contrasts and employed unique visual strategies within alternating regions.

19th-century French Empire continuous cove frame with leaf ornament, front bead divider and flat interior panel
19th-century French Empire continuous cove frame with leaf ornament, front bead divider and flat interior panel
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19th-century French Empire continuous cove frame with anthemium leaf pattern outside continuous stylized leaf motif with plain hollow divider and lambs tongue interior

Designs drew heavily for inspiration on symbols and ornaments borrowed from the ancient Greek and Roman empires.  Though originating in France, the style quickly spread throughout Europe.

Swedish Empire frame with reeded columns, carved portrait and reed and rosette ornaments
Swedish Empire frame with reeded columns, carved portrait and reed and rosette ornaments

The style took particular root in Imperial Russia, where it was used to celebrate the victory over Napoleon, and influenced numerous designers, and craftsmen of the day, as is evidenced in many of the objects being sold at auction next month during Christie’s and Sotheby’s Russian sales.  Hailing from both Russia and other countries, the objects that make up the Russian collections exemplify the desire to combine disparate elements, eliciting new forms of concord.

Fabergé Mantel Clock, Moscow, 1899-1908 (image courtesy of Christie’s)
Fabergé Mantel Clock, Moscow, 1899-1908 (image courtesy of Christie’s)
Baron Gérard’s portrait of Madame Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, later Princesse de Bénévent, painted in 1908, reflects the Empire style with the use of objects in the painting (image courtesy of metmuseum.org)
Baron Gérard’s portrait of Madame Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, later Princesse de Bénévent, painted in 1908, reflects the Empire style with the use of objects in the painting (image courtesy of metmuseum.org)
Russian Gold and Diamond-Set Presentation Snuff Box probably by Jacob Grauwinkel, St. Petersburg, 1847 (image courtesy of Sotheby’s)
Russian Gold and Diamond-Set Presentation Snuff Box probably by Jacob Grauwinkel, St. Petersburg, 1847 (image courtesy of Sotheby’s)

Lowy has one of the most comprehensive collections of French Empire frames in the world. For more information on Lowy’s collection of 5,000 antique frames, visit www.lowyonline.com or call 212-861-8585.

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.

If you have trouble seeing the above images, please click the pop-out button at the bottom right of the slideshow.

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.

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.

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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!

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.