Many don't know that Americans have gone through a change in taste with regards to picture frame preferences. The Julius Lowy Frame & Restoring Company, a framing and art conservation company in New York City, has put together an exhibition that showcases a spectrum of framing styles from the mass produced ornamentation of the 19th century to the elegant artistry of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Most of the 78 frames in the exhibition, A CHANGE OF TASTE: From the Gilded Age to the Craftsman Aesthetic, are signed and dated or labeled by their makers, and come from Lowy's extensive collection. The exhibition also includes extraordinary frames from the Edgar Smith Collection as well as examples from the collections of Gill & Lagodich Gallery, New York and Gold Leaf Studios, Washington, D.C.
Architect Stanford White, who was in large part responsible for the American picture frame revolution in the late 1880s, opposed to factory made, overly ornamented 19th century picture frames. Frames, according to White, should be beautiful in their own right and should be an integral part of interior design considerations. White brought his vision to life by designing frames for his artist friends. Often flatter, these frames extend the plane of the picture and have delicate ornamentation. White’s popular artisanal designs changed the general consensus about picture frame design by establishing the frame as a work of art – as important as the painting that it framed. Similar ideas about framing had been explored earlier in the century by James McNeil Whistler and other the artists involved in the Aesthetic and Arts and Crafts Movement in England.
By the early 20th century, American artists/frame makers carried the ideas of White and Whistler a step further by making as well as designing their own frames. These craftsmen, represented in the exhibition by Hemann Dudley Murphy, Walfred Thulin, Charles Prendergast and Frederick Harer, were responsible for liberating future artists and artisans from the stifling confines of convention which characterized earlier 18th and 19th century periods in America and abroad.
Lowy's company clients include important museums such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Chrysler Museum of Art and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, prominent art galleries including Wildenstein & Company, Acquavella, Hirschl & Adler and Adelson and well-known art collectors including David Rockefeller, Alain Wertheimer and Steve Martin.
The exhibition is open to the public through April 15, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 223 East 80th Street. A full color catalog is available upon request.