Remember the Trees: Framing Margaret Patterson

Often when explaining to customers my primary principles of framing, I say I rely first of all on the inherent character and beauty of the wood, because nothing we make is as beautiful as what nature makes. It’s become a bit of a stock line, leading me to my second principle… But one time the customer, a bright young woman, stopped me in my tracks and made the point far better than I had: “We have to remember the tree.”

Margaret Jordan Patterson, photo

Margaret Patterson painting trees

It’s a notion that by all evidence was close to the heart of the notable New England printmaker Margaret Jordan Patterson (1867-1950) who created the three woodblock prints of trees featured here. The first one, which we framed for California Historical Design (sorry, it sold) is titled “In the High Hills,” (ca. 1920, 11″ x 8-1/2″). We gave it a simple 1″ wide carved slope, No. 22 CV,  in quartersawn white oak. In addition to echoing with the carved bevel of the frame the texture of the rocky slope in the picture, I recognized the print’s ochre color as something we could match by fuming quartersawn white oak—that is, exposing it in a sealed box to strong ammonia fumes which react with the tannin in the oak, darkening the wood. So fumed it is, with just a clear finish. Then we repeated the ochre-blue complement of the print by painting the 1/8″ slip blue with linseed oil paint.Framed margaret Patterson print


Frame design sketchThe second print, “Coast Cedars,” (1920’s, 8″ x 10-1/2″) is in a 3/4″ wide carved walnut frame stained black, with a 23 kt gold leaf slip. The corners have carved patterns echoing the print’s jagged edges, with the pattern going into the inside corners as well (and followed by the gilt slip). Proud splines further articulate the corners. (Sketch made for the customer is shown at right.) Some insights about the artist and this print may be found online here.Framed margaret Patterson print

My third example of Patterson’s trees is a print we framed a few years ago, shown below. We set the print in a 1-1/8″ wide flat frame with a narrow carved panel with simple carved stops near the corners. The frame is stained mahogany, and has a gilt slip. Like the frame above (and those in numerous past posts, like this one), the frame here imitates the block used to make the print: in this case, the double bars repeat that detail in the depicted tree trunks. The entire margin was trimmed off at some point, so we floated the print in the window of an 8-ply mat.

Framed Margaret Patterson print

WWI photo destroyed forest, FlandersThe print above, “Tall Trees, Belgium” was created on one of Patterson’s many extended trips to Europe (she learned printmaking in Paris). If it seems like nothing more than a pretty picture, consider that she made it in 1914, just before all hell broke loose, with results like those at right.

I notice on Margaret Patterson’s Wikipedia page there’s another very fine print of trees: “A Salt Creek, Cape Cod,” 1918 (New York Public Library Collection), below. Just needs a carefully made frame in wood, one showing that we too, like Margaret Patterson, remember the tree.


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