Steve Nelson Gelatin Silver Print

Artist and Hope College professor, Steve Nelson, took this photograph in the UP of an abandoned iron quarry; this is a larger work with a frame size of 52″ x 43 1/2.” Gelatin silver prints are a general term describing the most common process for making black and white photographs since the 1890s. A variety of photographic print papers were introduced in the 1880s. It can be thought of as an in-the-camera technique that complements the wet plate process. The custom frame we made and designed with the artist is a Modern Gallery L-shaped frame with white gold, and includes a top mat but also a hidden reverse cut mat to give the illusion that it floats.

17th Century Drawing

This 17th Century drawing was probably intended to be a study for a shaped, final painting. The workmanship is superb, and shows great ability, but unfortunately the paper has not been handled with the greatest care. It is handmade paper laid with linen content, which is typical for early Italian sheets. The types of damage are numerous: water and ink damage, a fold down the center, pinholes where the artist likely secured the paper, insect invasion, deterioration, and asphaltum. The first step will be to clean and de-acidify the drawing. The asphaltum is on the reverse, and this will need to be carefully removed. For the areas of loss, caused by insects, chemicals, and aging, these will be replaced with paper consistent to the original. We are in the process of designing a frame, and are leaning towards an Italian style with a feather sgraffito.

On the left and right edge, there are stamps that appear to be household stamps that would have belonged to a wealthy Italian family and would have helped them to document their family items.

Catlin Restored and Framed

With a French mat prepared in the handmade manner: attaching watercolor paper to museum board and then with a ruling pen, creating lines and panels, and with watercolor washes incorporating color tones connected with the art, we gave this George Catlin (1796-1872) print an archival fit. A new American Impressionist frame with feather and ripple carving, gilded in 22 Karat gold, was created to complete the conservation of this magnificent print. We are very happy with the results, taking the artwork from a state of discolored foxing and staining, to accenting its qualities with a French Mat, and then making it the centerpiece of a grand and ornate, gilded frame.

George Catlin Catching the Wild Horse Cleaning

George Catlin Catching the Wild Horse

Oceanscape by Christine Sullivan

Stemming from a purchase at the Oils By the Sea Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a collector wished for a similar but larger oil painting by the same artist, Christine Sullivan. Sullivan is an artist we are very happy to have worked with extensively in the past, helping to frame her artwork, including the painting that fostered this commission.

Before the global economy, this was how much of the art world operated: a dealer brought together a buyer’s taste with an artist’s ability to create something very unique and tailored. A creative relationship was formed that was tied together by one more entity: the frame maker.

Due to Sullivan’s strong and developed style, and because the buyer enjoyed the frame for the smaller painting, we developed a similar frame called the American Step, and chose a 3-inch width with white gold.

This was a truly fun and rewarding collaboration that we greatly enjoyed and cherished knowing that these opportunities are very rare in today’s art world.

Weir Frame for Van Wieck Painting

Nigel Van Wieck’s (1949-) pictures are, in spite of their realistic form of representation, an unending source of fantasy. Animating stimuli also call for us to discover formal design principles, to create narrative links, to play through different possibilities and at the same time to always to shift our perspectives “Reality is much better when it is imagined”, the artist opined on his artistic intentions. But it is only through the elimination of distance, and opening oneself to the works that this new reality is unveiled and begins its delightful play of ambiguities and multiples meanings.

Nigel Van Wieck, who was born in the United Kingdom in Bexley, Kent, and received his training at the Hornsey College of Art in London. The artist turned to the Kinetic Art, a field in which he began to experiment with light, particularly neon light. Ever evolving, Van Wieck began to study the compositional use of light in the works of the Old Masters, and to gather inspiration for his own paintings. The artist cites the Dutch painter Jan Vermeer in particular as one of his great role models.

Van Wieck has been living and working in New York, USA, since 1979. An English style in his artwork is not apparent. Instead there is a strong influence from the American Realist artists, with whom he came in contact with after moving to America. At first it was the American Realist paintings of the late 19th century that impressed Van Wieck, but the strongest impression was Edward Hopper, whose art he thought was exemplary and in whom he perceived a kindred spirit. The comparison between the oeuvre of Hopper and Van Wieck has understandably often been drawn. In fact there are numerous parallels between Hopper’s often isolated and introverted figures who are caught in an urban malaise, and the equally singular figures in Van Wieck’s work. Moreover, the artists are united in their frequent depiction of empty places, in their clear compositional structure and in a fascination with sharp light and shadow effects.

The woman passed-out at a restaurant is a Van Wieck work that has its inspiration from a scene the artist observed. According to the story, the woman, after a fight, remained seated at the table until she fell asleep in a calm yet isolated reprieve. A deep sense of  disorder is somehow captured in this composition of straight tables, straight chairs, the long straight bar counter, and the liquor bottles standing like soldiers.

We prepared a custom Weir frame with 22kt gold, double-gilt to enrich the color. The frame has a warmness that accentuates the lighting in the painting and invites the eye into the composition. It is always an honor and rarity when a frame maker gets to work with a living artist and learn their style and use their own talents to complement.

 

Polk Osage 1958

Due to differences in the oil paints used for this work, the different colors dried at different rates. This created rifts in the paint film, also known as craquelures. This type of problem was common for Color Field painters, including Leon Polk Smith (1906 – 1996) before he switched to acrylic paints. Over time as these problems emerged, Polk was told to coat the work with varnish, but unfortunately this introduced another element which dried and contracted at its own rate.

Using the Dutch method we stretched the painting and carefully cleaned it and removed the varnish–the black field was where it was it the most troublesome. Linen threads were then added to the reverse to add strength, and heat and vacuum were used to flatten the paint surface.

The original stretcher bar was a fixed corner, a design that does not allow for adjustments to keep the paint film taut. A new stretcher bar was made as well a float frame that matched the style of the previous frame. The painting was then delivered and installed at the client’s house.

Double-sided Louis XVI Frame

In order to present the double-sided letter of French architect and sculptor Gilles-Paul Cauvet (1731 – 1788) we built a custom double-sided frame in the Louis XVI Neoclassical style with a 3/4″ width and a double mat. The frame was gilded and the pedestal was stained with light mahogany.

Cauvet was a prominent sculptor, architect, and designer at the French court. Sculptor for Louis XVI’s brother, the comte de Provence, later Louis XVIII, he also directed the Académie de Saint-Luc, the guild of decorative painters and sculptors. He designed carved boiserie (wood paneling) and furniture for houses in Paris. Many wood carvers were influenced by his book of engraved designs for interiors and furniture, which was published in 1777. We were happy to use our own ingenuity in woodcrafting to help present this bifold treasure.

Victorian Landscape

This oil painting by an unknown artist is a strong example of a Victorian landscape. A thatched roof with plenty of character and too unruly for straight lines. A modest mother and child, off-center and not interested in being the focus of attention. The unhitched wagon, the open front door, the sense of daily activities ongoing, and the closeness of the house, clipped by the left and right margin, gives an intimate yet homely perspective.

The work is old, dating back to pre-1900s, and the artist used a prepared board with gesso, which unfortunately cracked with water damage and in some places broke away. The first step was to stabilize and clean the board, and then in-fill where part of gesso had been lost. Topical repairs were then carried out with in-painting and consolidation of the surface. Restoration concluded with a custom Dutch frame with a high front and dark panel.

Pictures in Pictures

A fundamental principle of landscape painting is scene composition. Over the course of several months, while we have tackled the Olendorf (1924-1996) collection, there is a trait of his work that we have been enamored by. Pictures in pictures might be the best way to describe it. We wanted to offer a case study.

In this picture you’ll notice dynamic contrast. This is achieved through the opposing colors of the principle elements: the two cars, the white building, the brown horse, the flecks of brown and yellow flowers on the second floor balcony. This a rich and dynamic scene.

Scanning to the other side of the landscape you’ll see the same red car, but now there’s a pink car tucked behind a pair of trees. With only one person in this picture it’s as if the time of day has completely changed, and things are much quieter and much slower.

Pull back a little to this picture and you’ll see the building in full view, along with the people, and a touch of blue sky. But the focal point, where the color has the most emphasis, becomes the red car. From it there is a strong vertical line going straight up to the flag, the apex of the roof, and the blue sky. A height is given to man, his achievements, and his direction. And it is balanced by the natural growth of the trees framing the left third. The theme of man versus nature is at its strongest in this picture.

Now pull back to the full image and suddenly the dirt foreground and the presence of the horse completely change the dynamics. From a forrest, man has etched out a little trade store, and this transition period is still underscored by the different transportation modes: the cars and the horse. The emphasis of the red car drops a bit with the inclusion of the horse, and what you’re left with is something that is not yet defined, something in flux and change. You have an oasis. A little reprieve. Something off the beaten path. Something unique. Something with the charm of Olendorf.