n.d. Oil on board, 8-1/4″ x 6-1/4″. Framed in Century Series No. 308.1 “Michigan” — 2-5/8”, in quartersawn white oak (Oxford Oak stain).
Have you ever looked at a painting and realized that you were fighting to see past the frame, that the frame was actuallyinhibiting you from seeing the painting? Maybe you’ve held your hands up to one eye and used them to block out the frame. That was very much my reaction—
and I suspect the reaction of the customer who brought it to me—when I first laid eyes on this sweet little oil by the great French painter Rosa Bonheur. The elaborate, swirly gold frame was so imperious, showy and unsympathetic to everything about the picture—the subject, palette, line work, forms and, above all, the rustic spirit—that it actually felt laborious to really study and appreciate the painting itself. (The owner was also seeking a frame that would be more suitable to the painting’s destination in a log home.) At just a little over 8″ x 6″, it was being eaten alive by some past owner’s or dealer’s insecurities (it didn’t help that a makeshift gold colored liner had been used to make the painting fit a 10″ x 8″ frame). The poor creature appears inexplicably displaced to some Parisian bank manager’s parlor, and seems to stare at us as if to say, “What the heck am I doing here?”
Relief finally came when I removed the work from its setting and could enjoy this stately fellow that Mademoiselle Bonheur had distinguished so skillfully. Seeing past the significance of the painting and refusing to be awed by the signature in order to appreciate the work itself, I could craft no better solution than this plain and simple 2-5/8″ wide flattened scoop with a single bead at the sight edge. At last, we can see the painting without effort, and the stag is in his natural habitat, warily watching us as intruders of his home.