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The Importance of Art Framing

Updated on October 8, 2014

Framing is a form of visual communication. While it serves to provide emphasis on a particular object, framing allows us to see what the creator has seen; presenting to us the final product in the best possible setting.

Prior to modern art, frames have always been an integral part of a painting. Pieces of artwork were considered incomplete until framed. Inherently frames became part of the natural accompaniment to the image.

Early wooden frames were works of art in their own right. They were usually very large and painstakingly carved and elaborately decorated. These early frames were made to create a boundary that separated the painting from the surrounding wall. During this time, the frame makers were also known as artists. Their profession was usually not limited to making the frame only but to carve and decorate it to match the painting. The final result is usually a frame that blends harmoniously with the painting. Again in those days, the art was deemed unfinished until it was suitably framed.

A frame adds visual beauty to a painting and it can also add value to the painting financially. Good quality frameworks not only serve to protect the painting from the natural elements such as light, heat, dust and insects, it can add appeal to a piece of artwork.

The style of a frame is dependent on the style of the painting. Contemporary and modern paintings usually do away with framing. Modern abstracts usually look best using the minimalist approach or by opting sleek styles. By contrast, a classical or period painting is well-matched to a timeless and traditional looking wooden frame.

The frame is also viewed at the same time as the painting. As the frame has become a natural accompaniment to most artwork, it can sometimes influence our perception of the framed image. Art framing allows us perception and clarity but occasionally it can also provoke.

Frames that are similar to the painting will not emphasize the image; colors should be selected to compliment the painting. The saying ‘there is an “art” to framing’ cannot be closer to the truth. A painting with a well-matched frame can benefit from it as the frame is seen to enhance the image, rather than steal the show. A frame can either call for attention to a piece of artwork or it can lead you astray. That being said, it is essential to use a frame that does not take the attention away from the artwork.

Lastly, is the frame the most important thing encompassing art? Viewed through Frank Zappa’s perspective it would seem that the frame is the most important thing in art. This is illustrated by this quote, which is taken from the book ‘The Real Frank Zappa’. “The most important thing in art is the frame. For painting: literally; for other arts: figuratively – because, without this humble appliance, you can’t know where The Art stops and The Real World begins. You have to put a “box” around it because otherwise, what is that s--t on the wall?” – Frank Zappa.


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