“The workman ought often to be thinking and the thinker often to be working.” — John Ruskin
Below is my own reading list for those interested in learning more about framing and frame history in general as well in relation to the Arts and Crafts Movement. More resources may be found on our Links page.
An excellent list of mostly practical books on framing is at Professional Picture Framers Asscociation’s online bookstore.
For more on the Arts and Crafts Movement, The Victoria and Albert Museum has a terrific, long reading list. I also strongly recommend the following online texts:
- The William Morris Internet Archive boasts free online transcripts of the complete writings and lectures of the father of the Arts and Crafts Movement. An incredible resource!
- John Ruskin’s “The Nature of Gothic,” which William Morris called “one of the very few necessary and inevitable utterances of the century.” (Read Morris’s 1892 Preface.) A true understanding of the movement begins with reading this chapter from The Stones of Venice.
- Walter Crane’s The Bases of Design is arguably the single most important text on design to come out of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Crane was the premier art educator in Britain and the first President of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society.
Published Articles by Timothy Holton
A Frame-Maker’s Thoughts On Framing Paintings, Realism Today, May 21, 2020. Tim’s observations about what makes a frame right or wrong for a painting, as well as what history teaches about this fraught relationship between pictures and their frames.
Real Wealth: The Value of Art and Craft in a Debased Economy (PDF) Arts and Crafts Homes and the Revival magazine, Winter 2009. An examination of the significance of the arts in a time of economic upheaval.
Hidden in Plain View: An Appreciation of the Oak Frame Tradition (PDF) Style 1900 magazine, Winter 2008-09. A tribute and brief study of a humbler tradition of picture frames.
A Natural Finish (PDF) Picture Framing magazine, April 2008. A practical guide to finishing hardwood frames.
Close-framed Photographs. Picture Framing magazine, October 2007. A lesson from the Arts and Crafts Movement in the more unified approach to framing photographs in wide, plain molding profiles and showing no mat.
Digging Beyond Style: A Challenge for the Arts and Crafts Revival (PDF) Arts and Crafts Homes and the Revival Spring 2006 (premier issue). An exploration of the meaning and legacy of the Arts and Crafts Movement, especially in regards to the current Arts and Crafts revival.
And you can follow Tim’s blog, A Frame-Maker’s Journal.
Frames in the Arts and Crafts Period
Stanley B. Burns, M.D. Forgotten Marriage: The Painted Tintype & the Decorative Frame, 1860-1910. Self-published; New York, 1995. 220 pgs. Illustrated mostly in color. “Celebrates the discovery of the last stage of folk portraiture as an American cultural force — the painted tintype”, and does so, interestingly, in conjunction with the extraordinary and various frames of the period. Not much on frames one would directly associate with the Arts and Crafts Movement, but certainly helps a great deal in understanding art and framing for the typical American household of the period.
Erika Jaeger-Smith, Carved, Incised, Gilded and Burnished (The Bucks County Framemaking Tradition). James A. Michener Art Museum, 2000. Bucks County, Pennsylvania framemakers, such as Hermann Dudley Murphy and Charles Prendergast played an important role in the Arts and Crafts Movement. 64-page full-color catalog featuring prime examples of their work. Includes biographies of the frame-makers.
Harvey Jones, The Art of Arthur and Lucia Mathews. Pomegranate, San Francisco; 2006. 272 pages. Oakland Museum of California exhibition catalog. Illustrated in color and black and white. The definitive survey of the prolific San Francisco husband & wife team of Arthur and Lucia Mathews. Painters as well as designers of furnishings and interiors, the frames they designed for their own pictures are unique and extraordinary.
Harvey Jones, Mathews: Masterpieces of the California Decorative Style. Gibbs M. Smith; Layton, Utah; 1985. 120 pgs. Illustrated in color and b&w. An earlier version of Jones’s book, above.
Karraker, D. Gene, Looking at European Frames: A Guide to Terms, Styles, and Techniques. Getty Publication, Los Angeles; 2009.
Eva Mendgen, In Perfect Harmony, Picture & Frame 1850-1920. Van Gogh Museum/Kunstforum Wien, 1995. 278 pgs. Illustrated mostly in color. Does not include American frames, except for James McNeill Whistler, but is excellent on English — especially Pre-Raphaelite — and continental European artist-designed frames.
H. Morell, Victorian Wooden Molding and Frame Designs: The 1910 Morell Catalog. Dover, New York, 1991. 194 pgs. Illustrated in b&w.
Eli Wilner, Antique American Frames: Identification and Price Guide. Avon, New York, 1995. 228 pgs. Illustrated in b&w.
Eli Wilner, The Art of the Frame: American Frames of the Arts and Crafts Period. Self-published; New York, 1988. 32 pgs. Illustrated in b&w.
Eli Wilner, ed., The Gilded Edge. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2000. 204 pgs. Illustrated mostly in color. Beautifully illustrated, this is “the first book to offer an in-depth look at the exquisite antique frames made in America over the last two centuries.” With essays mostly by art dealers and curators, emphasis is on museum framing, and especially — as the title suggests — gilt frames.
Other Books On Frames
William Adair, The Frame In America, 1700-1900. AIA Foundation, Washington, DC, 1983. Illustrated in b&w.
W.H. Bailey, Defining Edges: A New Look at Picture Frames. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2002. Frame design and history from the point of view of a New York design professor and leading framing consultant.
Claus Grimm, The Book of Picture Frames. Abaris Books. 344 pgs. Illustrated in b&w.
Henry Heydenryk, Jr. The Art and History of Frames. Lyons & Burford, 1963. 120 pgs. Illustrated in b&w.
Henry Heydenryk, Jr. The Right Frame: A Consideration of the Right and Wrong Methods of Framing Pictures. Lyons & Burford, 1964. 108 pgs. Illustrated in b&w. Despite some rather dated examples, this thoughtful reflection on the aesthetic questions in designing framing for particular works of art is strongly recommended for anyone serious about the art of framing. A revised edition was published in 2002 by Lyons Press without the consent or authorization of the Heydenryk estate. The original version first published in 1964 is superior and preferable.
Paul Mitchell & Lynn Roberts, Frameworks: Form Function and Ornament in European Portrait Frames. Merrell Holberton, London, 1996. 480 pgs. Illustrated mostly in color.
Paul Mitchell & Lynn Roberts, A History of Picture Frames. Merrell Holberton, London, 1996. 136 pgs. Illustrated in b&w. Literally a bound dictionary entry on European frames.
Timothy Newbery, Frames and Framings. Ashmolean Museum of Oxford, 2002. Eighty pages; illustrated in color. Small but good pictures of framed paintings from the Ashmolean Museum collection, with commentary.
John Payne, Framing the Nineteenth Century: Picture Frames 1837-1935. Peleus Press, Victoria, Australia, 2007. Illustrated in color. A survey of 55 frame-makers in the National Gallery of Victoria. Emphasis is on Australian (especially Melbourne) frame-makers, but also some in London, Paris and other European cities.
Jacob Simon, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain. National Portrait Gallery, London, 1996. 224 pgs. Illustrated in color and b&w. Excellent, and includes much on Arts and Crafts Period — especially, of course, the Pre-Raphaelites.
P.J.J. van Thiel & C.J. de Bruyn Kops, Framing in the Golden Age: Picture & Frame in 17th-Century Holland. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 1995. 376 pgs. Illustrated in color and b&w. The text is tedious, but this is nonetheless the definitive work on northern European late-medieval/early renaissance frames that appear to have been the inspiration for so many household frames of the Arts & Crafts period.