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Thursday, May 31 • 2:00pm - 2:30pm
(Wooden Artifacts) Inside the Frames of Stanford White: A Technical Study

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Stanford White (1853-1906) is well-known as an architect at the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White in New York, where he was a partner from 1879 until his unexpected death in 1906. Although he was best known for his architectural work and interior designs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art holds over a dozen picture frames that were designed by White. A technical study of Stanford White frames in the Metropolitan’s collection was carried out by the author as part of an Annette de la Renta Junior Fellowship in the Department of Paintings Conservation. Seven frames, designed between 1889 and 1900, were examined using various analytical techniques, to complement existing studies which focus mainly on stylistic elements and on White’s professional relationships and collaborations. Just as his interior designs, White’s frame designs can be placed in the context of the late nineteenth-century Aesthetic Movement, which included an array of styles, resulting in highly artistic and aestheticized designs with a great variety of decorative elements. The frames were designed for specific paintings that were painted by White’s contemporaries, many of whom were his personal friends. White held close tabs on his frame designs, whether unique frames matching specific paintings or standard designs. Neither client nor frame maker was allowed to execute his frame or ornament designs without his permission. After his death the standard designs, documented with photographs, molds and samples, continued to be fabricated. Copies of his frames were made as well. His elaborate frame designs with distinctive, often architectural ornaments, are fascinating works of art that had not been extensively studied technically. This paper will present the results of the technical study. It will discuss observations about manufacturing processes, such as the use of joints associated with cabinetry and the use of copper wire in cast ornaments. Moreover, it will address the originality of the surfaces, such as the direct application of gilding on a wooden substrate, without a gesso preparation. The technical results are complemented with findings from archival research at the Avery Architecture and Fine Arts Library (Columbia University), which holds correspondence on numerous of White’s projects. The interdisciplinary approach of technical and archival research is especially valuable whenever material aspects of the original frames are lost, covered or altered. This study has provided valuable insights in American frame making towards the end of the nineteenth century. As an architect and designer in America’s Gilded Age, Stanford White elevated frame making to a form of art. Examining the technical aspects of White’s frame designs also adds to the growing appreciation of frames as art objects in their own right.

avatar for Tess Graafland

Tess Graafland

Junior Conservator of Frames and Gilding, Rijksmuseum
Tess Graafland graduated from the University of Amsterdam with a Master degree and Professional Doctorate in Conservation and Restoration of Wood and Furniture in 2014. She took internships at both the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, in furniture... Read More →

Thursday May 31, 2018 2:00pm - 2:30pm MDT
Kingwood Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston