An Unexpected Match Painting and frame in perfect harmony


Finding the right frame for a painting is a tricky business.

Just like they say the clothing makes the person, the frame should be an extension of the painting itself – like the setting for a jewel, it should hold the painting securely while showing off its strongest and best features.

In theory at least, each painting should have a frame chosen specifically for it, to properly complement the colors, textures, and even design of the artwork.

In practice, that is rarely done – at least by the artist when paintings leave the studio.


Taste in framing is, of course, as individual as taste in art.

Two people might like the same painting, but have very divergent ideas about what makes a good frame for it – one might want a heavy, ornate, gilded confection, while the other prefers the thinnest wisp of a surround. Many times somebody has told me that they loved the painting but hated the frame (and I’ve even heard the opposite occasionally)

This is to say nothing about the frame needing to fit in with all the different possible decors of its final destination.

I usually approach this problem by keeping my frames as reserved as possible – usually a simple wood frame painted flat black with as little ornamentation as possible.

To my eye, this gives the paintings the proper weight and presence, while allowing them to fit with a wide range of possible decor styles.

And of course, the collector can always have the painting reframed if they wish.


But something about this painting inspired a different approach.

As I was thinking about getting a normal flat black frame ready for it, I kept remembering another frame I’ve had in storage in my studio for years.

It’s a gold frame, somewhat narrower than I normally use, and tastefully decorated in something like an Arts and Crafts style (I think the design is referred to as California Impressionist or some such) – I just had that intuitive feeling that it might be right.

When I pulled it out of storage to have a look at it, I was immediately excited.

But I was absolutely thrilled once I decided to try it out, and got the painting into the frame.


As soon as I turned it over, I could see that it was the perfect pairing – frame and painting seemed to be in a conversation with each other. In particular I loved the way the decorative elements of the frame reflect the designs on the silver pitcher, and the way the gold leaf of the book’s title harmonizes with the frame’s gilding.

The whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.

I won’t frame every painting this way, but this is one time I am so glad I listened to my intuition.

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