to frame or not to frame? and what to ask your framer

Your decision to frame a painting, watercolor, drawing, or other 2D artwork depends upon several things: the features of the piece of art itself, the place you intend to hang it, and perhaps most important, your relationship with the art. Is it art you’ll want to live with for only a few years (to match a wall or furniture setting, for example)? Or is it truly valuable to you beyond its setting and worthy of long-term care?

It’s certainly possible to find paintings, drawings, photographs, and prints that don’t need a frame: you can simply take them home and hang them. Art created on newer materials, such as gallery wrapped canvases and cradled clayboard or birch panels, have wide finished edges and require no framing for display.

Many artists featured at Artful Home offer works like this. For example, Victoria Primicias’s small and larger paintings, such as Tender Reasons and Lesson Three are on wood panels with stained edges.  You can hang them immediately.

Edge view on Lesson Three by Victoria Primicias

Stained Edge on Lesson Three.

Gallery wrapped canvases are deeper than traditional canvases – 3/4” to 2 ¾” – and the canvas wraps completely around the edge. The artist treats the depth edge as a part of the work. A frame is not needed.  For example, Karen Hale’s acrylic paintings are painted on 1 ½” deep gallery wrapped canvas and are ready to hang.

Relic of the Past by Katherine Hale

Relic of the Past by Katherine Hale

View of canvas edge on Relic of the Past.

Conversely, works on paper, thinner traditional canvas, and other surfaces that don’t have a supporting internal framework will need to be framed or mounted in some way for protection and display. For example, Eugenie Torgerson’s work on deckle-edged paper would work best framed with a mat or float-mounted to reveal the deckle edge.

Before Memory - Wells Road by Eugenie Torgerson

Before Memory – Wells Road by Eugenie Torgerson

Leonard Moskowitz’s acrylic painting, Afternoon Walk, is a large painting (30”h x 40”w) on a traditionally stretched canvas that’s 1” deep. It is described as “ready for framing” – that is, it requires a frame.

5_AfternoonWalk_Moskowitz Edits

Afternoon Walk by Leonard Moskowitz

Where will you hang your art? The place you intend to hang your art will determine its longevity. Anything hung in direct sunlight or near a heat source will degrade. Ultraviolet light is very destructive to pigments, paper, canvas (and to practically everything else). Heat causes paint to crack, wood to shrink, canvas and paper to dry and age rapidly. Consider the spot carefully. Whether you frame your new piece or not, excessive sunlight and heat should be avoided. To a certain extent, UV damage can be mitigated with anti-UV glass, but not totally eliminated. Don’t hang something in the sun unless you don’t care that it won’t last.

If you forgo the “ready to hang” option and purchase a work of art that is “ready for framing,” there is one decision you have to make before you meet with a professional framer:

Do you want this artwork to last? That is, do you want your artwork framed to archival quality?

These two questions are actually the same question. A framer who works to archival standards will carefully use only materials that are acid-free: papers, mats, tabs, adhesives, even distilled water to moisten adhesives rather than tap water. Why? Because acidic materials are extremely destructive over time, and the destruction they wreak on artwork cannot be reversed. Yes, some acid staining and degradation could be partially restored with careful painstaking techniques, but it cannot be made new again. It’s better to go acid-free from the beginning. Museums use archival methods for all matted and framed art.  If you want your art to last, go archival. With this in mind, be certain the framer you choose is able to work to archival standards. Ask.

There are, of course, many other questions you can explore with your framer: mat colors, whether or not to float-mount a print with a deckle edge, to add glass or not, choices of frame. But these are personal aesthetic questions for specific artwork, questions that will allow you to develop a long and trusting relationship with your framer.

By | 2016-12-23T11:05:43+00:00 June 7th, 2016|articles|1 Comment

Share This Story!

One Comment

  1. Brigitte June 7, 2016 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    This is really helpful information! It’s especially useful to know which kinds of paintings need frames and which ones don’t.

Leave A Comment