Virgil Williams (1830-1886), “California Farm Scene”

1884. Oil on canvas, 10″ x 20″. Framed in Compound Mitered No. 14.153 H CV + Cap 15 CV Stops in hand carved walnut (Medieval stain). It’s a total of 3-1/4″ wide, plus a 1/8″ pale gold slip.

It’s always exciting to see a historic painting come in the door, but especially so when it’s in a conventional gold frame, because I know that the customer, who’s already very proud of his or her treasured work of art, is about to see it dramatically and wonderfully transformed. Once the painting’s freed from the gold frame and placed in a dark wood setting, they will see it far better than they ever have before. And if the painting’s of a rustic subject, it’ll no longer suffer from being stuck in a setting that fights with it, but will be enhanced and sustained by the frame.

The painting before re-framing.

This 1884 California farm scene by the important California painter Virgil Williams is a perfect example of what I mean. It’s Williams’s own farm on the slopes of Mt St Helena, and the woman in the picture is his wife, Dora, so the piece has some historic significance as well for students of the history of California painting. Virgil Williams, who was born in Maine and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1862, probably never achieved the fame he deserved because he was chiefly devoted to teaching. He may have sacrificed his own artistic career to cultivate the work of others, serving as the first director of the California School of Design, now the the San Francisco Art Institute. In that capacity he helped guide the talents of many notable painters including William Keith, Thomas Hill and Samuel Marsden Brookes.

Read my blog post on this piece…