You’ve selected a gorgeous oil painting, print, photograph, or poster. Now what? Equally important is selecting the frame. Art frames serve several purposes ranging from practical and aesthetic to conceptual.
Art Frames: Practical Applications
Frames are used to provide structure, protect, and display the artwork. Frames may or may not have glass and matting, but most do have molding, backing, and mounting hardware. Adding a frame to a piece of artwork adds structure to the piece while also making it easier to mount the artwork on walls thanks to the inclusion of mounting hardware. While glass and Plexiglas are most often used on photographs and posters, glazing materials that block harmful UV rays are becoming increasingly popular for paintings and prints to protect artwork from fading and deterioration.
Art Frames: Aesthetic Considerations
In addition to the practical applications of frames, frames are also important for aesthetic reasons. An unframed painting may look bare or unfinished while a framed piece of art will look complete. However, the frame should suit the artwork; it should become a part of the piece, not compete with it. For example, a fancy gilt frame may be stunning on its own or when paired with a formal portrait, but this same frame may be the wrong choice for a contemporary painting.
Art frames are made from a variety of materials with countless finishing possibilities. When considering the aesthetics, consider the artwork’s subject and style as well as the location where the artwork will be displayed. For instance, consider framing a painting of an old barn with a distressed and weathered wooden frame. If this same painting will be displayed alongside similar pieces, consider coordinating the frames of all of the pieces in the collection for a cohesive look.
Art Frames: Defining Art’s Boundaries
Frames are important in art for another reason: Frames define art’s boundaries. Frames provide a boundary, either physical or conceptual, that separate art from reality. Artists often frame their artwork deliberately, making the frame as much a part of the art as the canvas itself. Physical and conceptual boundaries also make viewers think. For example, what the artist or photographer chooses to show is often only part of the story. As a viewer looks at a carefully framed image, one has to think, “What am I not seeing?”
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