Re-framing Henry Gremke

Here’s a new example just added to the page “Fixing a ‘Very Prevalent Error’,” showing the rewards of replacing gold frames with dark wood ones. As a before-and-after example, this one hardly seems fair, since the gold frame that was on this painting when it came in is definitely one of the worst we’ve seen. Practically anything would’ve been an improvement!

HD Gremke, before re-framing

The frame is painted gold over a machine-made, compo pattern. It has barely any substance; it’s extraordinarily thin, and seemed to float off the wall. It is hard to know why anyone would find such a frame appropriate. It certainly doesn’t help anyone truly see or appreciate the picture, and so is really nothing more than showy packaging. Merely removing it from the old frame was a relief to the eye. Then came the reward of doing it justice with a real frame.

Especially for such a small painting, the rustic subject matter and looseness of execution suggested a very simple overall shape. We chose a compound mitered frame we’ve used on a handful of previous jobs, No. 16 CV + Cap 16 CV. The wood is quartersawn white oak with Oxford Oak stain—redder than I tend to use, but suited to the palette and mood of a warm, bright day. The perspective of the painting, which is looking up a canyon, called for a frame that would step in to the painting fairly dramatically and sustain its depth. Simple carved elements—the chamfers at the sight edge of both the cap molding and the inner molding—were called for in response to both the rocks as well as the impasto paint surface. The carved chamfers also complement the flat surfaces that are not carved and alternate with them to create a simple but pleasing rhythm. But the beauty of the frame lies mostly in the figure of the wood—the inherent beauty of nature. And that takes us back to the painting and its subject (as the frame should).

Somebody said, those who love art love nature more. Painters and frame-makers do well to let nature be their guide and subordinate their own work to hers, knowing nature is the one true source of inspiration and the only basis of life and beauty.

H.D. Gremke (1860-1939), “Kings River Scenery,” ca. 1900. Oil on canvas, 12″ x 10-1/4″.

Corner detail

The following artist biography was provided by North Point Gallery, which is offering the painting.

H.D. Gremke was born in San Francisco and studied landscape at the California School of Design under Raymond Dabb Yelland.  From his studio in Oakland, Gremke took sketching trips in the summertime to the Kings River area, sometimes accompanied by his sister Elesa, an accomplished writer. Gremke furnished the illustrations for her article “”To Tehipite Through Silver Canyon”” published in Sunset Magazine in March of 1901. Our work shows the eclecticism often found in California mountain paintings of this period that unites the grandeur of the Hudson River School aesthetic with the more up-to-date, looser and brighter plein-air style influenced by the French Impressionists.

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