I’ve written before (in this post, for example) about the unique opportunity for harmony that exists between a block print and a wooden frame: the carving of the face of the frame can create not only an effective profile for the presentation of the print but can actually mimic the carving of the woodblock (or linoleum) used to print the picture. A simple example of that is our frame for the print at right, “Nightfall,” by William Seltzer Rice (1873-1963).
The frame for another William Rice print we recently had come through, “Mountain Cascade” (n.d., ca. 9″ x 12″), below, also follows that principle, but adds to it a framing approach I find effective for entirely different reasons: a kind of sheltering effect that draws on and underscores the frame’s protective function. In this case, an added benefit is the way the frame design has that feel of a waterfall’s gravity.
In the print, a canopy of tree branches shelters a cascade. The 1″ wide walnut frame echoes that by keeping the top part of the frame “heavier” with foliage, that density of leaves suggested by simple cuts in an otherwise plain, flat face. Those cuts if made in a printing block would leave spots of uninked paper and the effect of “light holes” in a tree canopy. Descending from the canopy, as it were, the density of leaves decreases, leaving a smattering of hanging leaves part way down the sides of the frame. Below those hanging leaves the lower part of the frame is a simple carved profile with raised straps on the inside and outside—our No. 14 profile. All in all, the frame is not only echoing the way the tree canopy shelters the waterfall but satisfies our instinctive desire to feel that the frame is sheltering the print.
I first played with that idea in framing another Rice print, shown at right and posted about here.
Like N.C. Wyeth, who was the subject of my last post, William Rice also studied under the great American illustrator and teacher, Howard Pyle (1853-1911). Pyle influenced Rice not only as an artist but in his choice to become a teacher—which Rice did at grade school through college levels. This earlier post on framing another block print (as well as a Rice watercolor) also discusses Rice’s instructive book, Block Prints: How to Make Them. In any case, nearly 60 years after the artist’s passing, not only are Rice’s block prints still widely admired but they go on teaching close observers and students, including this frame maker, the art of woodblock printing—or at least the art of woodblock carving.« Back to Blog