Framing a William S. Rice Woodblock Print

A happy customer just left here with this block print, “Lake Merritt”, by the great California artist William Seltzer Rice (1873-1963). An interesting thing about making wooden frames for block prints is that decorative carving of the frame can be done in the same way the print is carved. The frame, made of walnut stained black, is a 3/4″ wide simple flat, but with a raised outer edge and carved inner flat that terminates near the top of the sides with carving to mimic the trees in the print. (The texture of the carved flat also echoes the water in the print.) It’s a very simple detail, individualized to the print, that not only pays homage to the particular print but to this wonderful medium of woodblock printing. Completing the frame is a pale gold slip. We painted the bevel of the grey rag mat black. I think the whole presentation honors and celebrates a lovely print while keeping the frame subordinate to it by working within the artistic vocabulary and parameters set by the picture.

Another thing I like about this design is its “shelter” effect: the extra weight of the top seems to provide something of a protective “roof” over the picture. That this intuitively looks right reminds us of the role of the frame in protecting the picture.

Below is a corner detail shot in which you an also see a corner of the print with the trees in a solid black pattern. The woodblock used to make the print would have looked similar to the carved pattern on the frame.

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