Placing The Picture | Verve Magazine
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July 11, 2013

Placing The Picture

Text by Shreya Shah.

Ornate, carved, wooden or oxidised – a fascinating frame sets the tone for a striking piece of art. It is that element which elevates the painting, and presents it to the viewer in the best light

Ever since we were children, we have been taught to give our drawings a clear outline. The reason is simple, it gives a neater look and ‘completes’ the drawing. Similarly, in the case of paintings, a frame whether intricate or simple, offers a backbone to the work of art. It literally becomes the support on which your painting hangs.

However, not every painting needs to be framed. For a gallery-wrapped painting, framing is an optional exercise. Gallery-wrap refers to canvas wrapped around thick stretcher bars and secured to the back, rather than the sides of those bars. This mounting leaves the sides of the canvas smooth, neat and free of visible staples or tacks. Artists using this type of canvas mount often continue the painting around the sides or simply paint the sides a complementary neutral shade.

Generally, paintings on board or panel require the structure of framing for display, as do most paintings on paper. Choosing the correct frame needs as much wisdom, and vision, as choosing the painting itself. A painting’s style should ideally suggest the style of the frame. For example, a period painting or one of classical subject matter is well suited to a frame that is traditional and timeless, like an elegant gold one or a handsome wooden frame. Lighter, ethereal, or more abstract paintings may look their best in sleek and less fussy frames.

Several frames even offer the best of both, the traditional and the contemporary world. In fact, you can easily create a little corner, which can contain a variety of frames and paintings in terms of size and style. They can complement each other if positioned carefully.

Oil paintings look pronounced without a frame as well, as the focus is then solely on the artwork. Provided that the stretcher, (the wooden structure on which the canvas is stretched), is solid and reasonably thick, then the painting can be wired to hang without a frame. Should you choose to frame it, you must keep in mind that oil paintings need to breathe, and so must never be framed under glass. An oil painting is generally painted on canvas. That canvas can either be stretched on a wooden frame, mounted on wood or gator board, or unstretched.

Works on paper – watercolours, pastels, charcoal drawings and so forth – entail a special set of considerations because of the perishable quality of their surfaces. Prior to framing, the work must be mounted on a support. Conservation mounting is strongly recommended. This means that at any time in the future you would be able to remove your artwork from the framing structure without causing any damage. In addition, most works on paper require matting and framing under glass for protection.

There are no rules when it comes to choosing a frame. Several traditional paintings look wonderful in sleek frames, while many pieces of abstract art can look elevated in ornate ones.

Remember to go with your instincts!

Tags: Featured, Frames

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