To experience creative genius, sometimes you need to think outside the canvas – literally. We’re talking about all those fabulous frames that add even more magic to artistic masterpieces.
French artist Henri Matisse once said that the four sides of a frame are ‘the most important parts of a picture.’ They come in as many varieties are there are paintings – from ornately-carved wooden behemoths to elegant Art Nouveau creations. Yet frames are often the unsung heroes of the museum world, even though they can be impressive pieces of art in their own right.
Frames have been around almost as long as painting itself. Egyptian tomb paintings from 4000 years ago have decorative borders that not only frame specific scenes, but also include explanatory hieroglyphics – just like a modern comic book.
In fact, some of the coolest frames aren’t physical objects at all. Just check out these clever trompe-l’oeil frames that are actually part of the painting:
Frames not only look impressive on their own, but also enhance, interpret and protect the art they contain. They are an awesome combination of furniture, architecture, and sculpture. Even French architect Hector Guimard (the brains behind Paris’s iconic Metro station entrances) tried his hand at designing Art Nouveau-style frames like these ones:
Frames can also be an important part of the artist’s overall vision. This unusual painting and frame combo by Joan Miró ties both objects into a single composition:
And the gold frame for this work by Arthur Hughes includes a Keats poem, giving greater context to the story behind the three scenes:
Frames can add to a painting’s financial and artistic value. One elaborately-carved frame from the 1700s sold for £52,500 at auction in 2013 – without any art inside it. In fact, there are plenty of empty frames that could steal the show from most paintings:
And some frames were never meant to share the spotlight with anything but a reflection, like this blinged-out German mirror from the early 1700s:
There’s a whole other world of amazing art out there, protecting and enhancing your favorite paintings and photographs. On your next museum or gallery visit, reframe your view to give some kudos to the awesome creations just beyond the canvas edges.