Framing Alfred Farnsworth

We just framed this exquisite 1906 watercolor, “Mt Tamalpais from Richardson Bay” (10-1/2” x 21”), by notable California painter Alfred Farnsworth (1858-1908). The 2-1/2” frame is stained walnut in a very shallow slope that coves up near the outside to a soft reverse cushion, and has a bead at the sight edge. A slender pale gold slip catches the day’s last light. Strove (as always) for harmony of color, form, line (the small bead which echoes the rigging of the ships). The slight slope enhances the perspective but is flat enough to extend the flatness of the water. No mat (except a hidden “gasket” mat under the wide rabbet of the frame to separate the watercolor from the glass) in order to unify the effect and present the picture as if it’s a scene viewed through a window.

There’s also another harmony here captured by Farnsworth, which is between the activities of people and the surrounding landscape. In 1906, despite a conquering mindset on the part of many, the land still prevailed in everyday life, and so inspired awe and reverence. In the settling dusk from a spot like this in the generally bustling harbor of San Francisco Bay (of which Richardson Bay is a part), stillness and wonder reigned. Hence a quiet, humble, wooden frame.

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