The Art of Framing

Art is a means of self-expression, a form of entertainment, and an inspirational outlet. It requires proper care, along with appropriate preservation and placement. The artistic world is a multifaceted community, and to display art proudly is to become a member of this ever-expanding society. Choosing the right frame for a piece of art can be a daunting process, but with a certain attention to detail, the results can be spectacular.
Art is Historical – It Demands Preservation

Picture this: A portrait of a young girl in a yellow-sleeved gown and a bejeweled peach headdress. She cradles a rosary in her juvenile hands, and blankly looks off to the side.

This portrait, painted by Jean Clouet, which tells the story of Princess Charlotte of France, is displayed on a wall in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Nearly 500 years later, it acts as a photograph documenting the life of the young princess. This small piece of art, which is a big piece of history, wouldn’t be around to admire if it weren’t properly preserved.

Art is not a luxury. We need it, just like we need music.

Ann Van Ryswyk, framing virtuoso from Opening Night Framing Services & Gallery in Minneapolis, says, “Art is not a luxury. We need it, just like we need music.”

An experienced framer, Van Ryswyk explains the importance of choosing the right frame: When framing a piece of art, whether it’s a watercolor masterpiece or a dated photograph, the most critical thing is finding a frame that will preserve it. The first thing she considers is how to archive the piece properly.

In Van Ryswyk’s words, “The frame must first be a protective, archival case that is structurally sound.”

From there, Van Ryswyk considers shape, size, location, and other variables. Art may be timeless, but it demands being preserved.

Art Has a Voice – You Just Need to Listen

Try this: Take a moment to look at your piece. If it were to tell you something, what would it say? A frame should complement the piece, help tell its story, and be an extension of the art. The best way to find the perfect frame is to listen to what the piece says to you. Figure out its theme, its purpose, and its manifestation.

Local artist Perci Chester believes framing her work makes a big difference in the flow of the piece: “A print I made with a lot of white seemed to require a wide, white frame. The frame extended the space, but in a subtle way contained the image, and completed the work.”

The frame in which Charlotte of France is encapsulated assists in the development of her story. An ornate, intricately carved facade, it resembles what only can be explained as an Italianate niche. The dark background behind Charlotte contrasts with the frame, making it stand out, and become a royal entablature, exemplifying her prominence.

When framing paintings, it is important to understand textures within the work. An earthy, textural painting with thick oil might crave an organic frame that complements the shapes, designs, and nature of the painting. A quaint photograph of a dainty tree might require a loud, flashy frame to contrast with its subtlety.

Marilyn Hanson, owner of The Great Frame Up in Burnsville, thinks that framing should become part of the art—the frame should enhance the art without taking away from it. It’s important to get a feel for the artist’s intent, and match an appropriate frame.

When explaining the importance of understanding the art, Hanson applies the square-peg-round-hole proverb, pointing out, “Just because you love the art, and you love the frame—it doesn’t always mean they should go together.

Imagine this: The original Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh hanging in a bathroom; or Kevin Carter’s photograph of the starving Sudanese child displayed in a kitchen.

Art is meant to inspire, to teach, and to entertain. In some cases, a bad location can alter the story the piece is meant to tell.

Physical placement, although important, should be the last consideration, however. Once the frame choices are narrowed down to something that will preserve the piece, and complement the voice of the art and the owner, then it is time to decide where it belongs. By keeping the location in mind, but having it be the last consideration, the frame will be more about the art itself, which in turn will be a better match.

Van Ryswyk ponders location last, because a piece always can be moved. When defining the environment in which the piece will be placed, she stresses the importance of understanding why it is significant.

A frame, then, may seem like a mere piece of wood and sheet of glass, but when paired with the perfect photograph, painting, or poster, it is so much more. The frame should be the conclusion to the story, like the binding of the book.

Perci Chester
[email protected]

Marilyn Hanson
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Ann Van Ryswyk
[email protected]

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