n.d. Oil on canvas, 22″ x 18″. Framed in compound mitered profile, 3-1/2″ wide, in quartersawn white oak (Medieval Oak stain) with pale gold slip.
Bonheur (1822 – 1899) was one of France’s great wildlife painters, and we’ve been honored with the opportunity to frame a number of her pieces. The bright gold and compo frame it arrived in (right; the image shows the shoddiness of compo) did nothing for the picture. (It looks elegant and luxurious—but is designed for show, not sympathetic presentation of the picture. Damaged in transit, the composition—or “compo”—breaking off demonstrates the dubious service of frames like this as protectors of paintings, not to mention the debased character of compo as fake carving.) The painting called for a setting that’s formal—in the sense of having form, not in the sense of “dressed up”—to be in sympathy with the fine rendering of the stag and its world. (See a less formal approach to framing a similar painting, here…) Speaking of its world, a wooden frame, simple and rustic and honoring nature, struck me as far more appropriate. The gilt slip, pale to harmonize with the wintry scene, highlights the painting and reflects its significance without creating separation between the frame and painting or projecting pretentiousness.
The suitably rustic spirit of the quartersawn white oak frame molded to harmonize in line and form with this quiet but accomplished work, a dark stain to lead the eye to the lighter painting (the eye goes to light; frames are generally more successful when they’re darker than the picture), and a touch of pale gold leaf on oak at the sight edge to echo the painting’s contrasts and lend a note of honor to this noble beast all contribute to a setting that sustains and expands the spirit of this fine work and allows us at last to see and admire the painting.