The cur­rent trend is to leave art­works un­framed. Our art ex­pert An­thony Smith takes a dif­fer­ent view

EDP Norfolk - - Inside - An­thony Smith read art his­tory at the Univer­sity of Mel­bourne and has over 35 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence as a gallery owner and art dealer spe­cial­is­ing in in­ter­na­tional art.

Ex­pert An­thony Smith on whether to frame or not

IS there an­other as­pect of a paint­ing, apart from the work it­self, that re­ally dis­plays the taste of the owner other than fram­ing?

It’s been one of my long-held be­liefs that if the paint­ing is strong enough (de­mands at­ten­tion due to its qual­ity) re­ally, it is al­most im­pos­si­ble to over-frame, to put too large a frame on, but it is pos­si­ble to make a bad fram­ing choice.

A frame is like cloth­ing: with­out it, a paint­ing just doesn’t seem ‘dressed’ or com­plete. This goes against a cur­rent trend of not fram­ing any paint­ing, be it con­tem­po­rary or even an­tique. Re­cently I saw some 18th cen­tury oils, un­framed and just rest­ing against a wall. It was the look the owner was af­ter – ca­sual chic – but there are is­sues with this that go be­yond fash­ion.

In fact a frame is as much to safe­guard an art­work, to en­sure that it isn’t dam­aged ei­ther in trans­port­ing the work or when it is hung (or falls!), as it is to en­hanc­ing the work.

Paint­ings are frag­ile and eas­ily dam­aged, even if just rest­ing against a wall. A sim­ple knock caused by some­one walk­ing past or from vac­u­um­ing or sweep­ing is all that’s needed to po­ten­tially cause aes­thet­i­cally and fi­nan­cially dam­ag­ing re­pairs.

Of course, all works on pa­per should be framed and ideally put un­der glass. This is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for wa­ter­colours as they are vul­ner­a­ble to even the small­est amount of dam­age, ac­ci­den­tal or even cli­matic. Of­ten one is given a choice be­tween Per­spex or glass when fram­ing works on pa­per. I tend to go for glass. It ap­pears clearer and is, in my opin­ion, more aes­thet­i­cally ap­peal­ing.

An­other rea­son for fram­ing is that it can give a paint­ing pres­ence, more im­por­tance in a room. In fact, even a lesser work can be el­e­vated by it be­ing framed in a com­ple­men­tary frame, one that en­hances and adds to the work.

Frame styles are as var­ied as one could pos­si­bly imag­ine. I re­mem­ber hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with a col­lec­tor of Aus­tralian abo­rig­i­nal art who had al­ways thought that a frame was un­nec­es­sary. Yet af­ter we had one done for him in a sim­ple, shadow (box) frame, he then framed his whole col­lec­tion in a sim­i­lar man­ner and it does look more pres­ti­gious as well as look­ing more es­tab­lished.

I am al­ways on the look­out for in­ter­est­ing frames and have ad­mired the be­spoke fram­ing that Mark Ry­den, a con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can painter, has on his works. Each is in­di­vid­u­ally made to suit the paint­ing and adds so much to the works. It took me some years to track down his frame maker, but now that I have, they pro­duce in­di­vid­ual frames to match any work re­mind­ing me of a time, long ago, when the frame was as im­por­tant and as costly as the paint­ing it housed.

But, for the ma­jor­ity of the time, it is un­nec­es­sary to go to this ex­tent or ex­pen­di­ture to re­ally en­hance and add pres­tige to our art­works. We have some very good framers here in Nor­folk who are well versed in ad­vis­ing clients on what may best suit a piece. Some­times their ideas are more en­light­ened and bet­ter op­tions than our own; well, at least mine.

I re­mem­ber at the Bruer Tid­man ex­hi­bi­tion at Fairhurst Gallery, they had opted to place one of Bruer’s con­tem­po­rary works in an 18th cen­tury frame. It was sim­ply per­fect, but who would have thought so?

So please, do con­sider fram­ing as a means to com­plete a paint­ing and also to en­hance both its aes­thetic and of­ten fi­nan­cial value too. But be a bit bold – it may be an un­ex­pected suc­cess!

Above and top: Fram­ing can en­hance any art­work

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