Framing Vintage Botanicals

We have a lot of clients that bring us vintage botanical illustrations and it has become one of my favorite things to design frames for.

The soft colors in the illustrations pair beautifully with both metallic and wood finishes.  For this piece we decided to do a mix of both. The pink tones in the flowers called for a moon gold but it was a little too strong so we toned it down with a natural maple with a white rub on the sides.  Vintage art tends to look great with fabric mats and this mauve silk was the perfect color to separate the piece from the frame.

With a good eye for design, a piece of art can become one with the frame rather than the frame being something solely utilitarian. This piece is a great example of that.

Framing in a classic era

Framing for a classic era

This fashion drawing of two men dressed in 1920′s tuxedos is a classic example of the ritz that defined this iconic era.  The image is detailed solely in neutral tones with a light wash background and set within a sketchy graphite border.  The antique white mat gives the image enough breathing room while ensuring the piece is the central energy of the frame.

The deep bevel of the mat has been painted black to mirror the rough border of the drawing while complementing the stark black lapels and shadows of the figures.  A white gold finish on the frame relates to the flashy and glamorous era that the style is famous for.  The design of the frame stays true to the art deco architectural styles of creating geometry and clean forms.  This leaves the lasting effect revamped and tastefully vintage.

contemporary framing

contemporary framing

Contemporary Framing for Older Works

We recently framed two beautiful works on paper by Claude Flight (top) and Cyril Powers (below), both from the Art Deco period.  This style is surprisingly contemporary, even by today’s standards, so we wanted to match the geometric and organic feel of the artwork. We used a step frame with a sharp back bevel so it appears to be hovering off the wall on which it rests.  Also we chose to do the matting and frame in a cream tone-on-tone. This treatment allows the frame and matting to disappear and the artwork to be the star.  The eye is immediately drawn to the image and then hovers outward toward the matting and then the frame.

A good framing job lets the art be the star, and the frame is only the background and also protector of the art.

vintage expression

Expressionist Vintage Painting

This stunning expressionist vintage painting from a Parisian artist deserved something unique, so we chose an art deco frame. The decorative art style of the 20s and 30s was characterized by bold geometric shapes and strong colors. This style is mirrored in both the piece and the hand gilded white gold frame.

vintage beach

Vintage Beach Style

These two French fashion drawings from the 1930’s came together to form one light, airy, and classic piece. The two mat openings provide elegant symmetry with an art-nouveau flavor, and the positioning tricks the eye into imagining that the two pieces are one. The soft white mat and the white-rub frame have just enough polish to match the sophisticated ladies within. The wood grain showing through balances out the look–keeping it as casual and breezy as a day at the beach!

old photo

Tiny Glimpse into the Past

Good things come in small packages. This tiny, mysterious, antique photo of a 4-year-old girl is over a century old! Something so small and so steeped in history carries an inherent magic. We had to frame it in a style as enchanting as the photograph itself.

We floated the piece on a dark olive silk. The dark green adds subtle color to bounce off of the sepia tones in the photograph. The luscious texture of silk alludes the Edwardian era, yet the decision to float it is fresh and contemporary. The fluted silver frame is commercially-made. But unlike many frame shops, we order our mouldings in length, then cut them and join them ourselves in our woodshop. This gives us the ability to control how patterns match up in corners. In this case we were able to create corner details by strategically chopping the moulding in all the right places. The result is a delightfully art-deco look, both elegant and quiet.

We topped it all off with museum glass, which will protect the photo from any further light damage, while providing amazing clarity with virtually no reflection.

What Framing can do for your piece: 1940 to 2013

Sometimes a piece of art just needs a makeover. Recently, we framed a lithograph that was was funded by the Works Progress Administration, which was part of FDR’s New Deal program.  This particular piece was originally framed in a set and purchased sometime in the late forties.  For decades, the pieces resided at different households in twin frame designs until one of them made it’s way over to us for repair. This “before” photo shows the sister piece, which remains in its original frame.

Not only was this litho in need of an aesthetic update, but the non-archival material encasing it for so many years had caused the paper to turn yellow. Yellowing is caused by an acid called lignin (which naturally occurs in wood) as it reacts to air and sunlight. As the process of discoloration progresses, the paper becomes brittle and eventually crumbles. That’s why using acid-free mats and UV-protected glass is so important. No matter how far the deterioration process has progressed, these materials will stop it in its tracks!

We chose a unique commercial moulding with a silvery-black finish and a scalloped shape. The variation in the black finish brings out the subtleties in the lithograph’s tones, while the organic shapes in the moulding itself highlight the swirling patterns in the image’s moody sky. The mat we chose was a slightly brownish clay tone—a few shades lighter than the paper—but not so white as to call attention to the yellowness. These choices meshed well but there was still something missing, some detail needed to pull all the elements together. This situation called for a fillet! A fillet is a thin lip of moulding that sits inside the opening of the frame. A fillet is a handy way to add detail to a frame that needs just a little something extra. The touch of gold added a warm glow to the whole piece, and gave it a more vintage and regal look, placing it in the time period in which it was made, without making it looked “dated”.

Framing can have a dramatic effect on a work of art—both in how it will be perceived by a viewer, and how well it will hold up over the years. Each detail counts towards the overall finished product, and sometimes the smallest element—a fillet for example—can make all the difference.