Reflections on frames and framing
Excerpts from the contemplations of a Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega
"A work of art is an imaginary island that floats surrounded by reality
on all sides. In order for it to be produced, it is necessary that the aesthetic
body remain isolated from the real world. We cannot, by merely walking one
step at a time, pass from the ground upon which we tread to the ground that
is painted. It takes more than that. The indecisive nature of the boundaries
between the artistic and the living disturbs our sense of aesthetic pleasure.
Hence the picture without a frame, confusedly blending the boundaries with
the pragmatic, extra-artistic objects that surround it, loses all elegance
and suggestion. What is needed is for that real wall to terminate quickly
and abruptly, so that we may find ourselves suddenly and without hesitation
in the unreal territory of the picture. An isolator is needed. And that
isolator is the frame."
"The frame, then, has something of the window about it, just as the
window is a lot like the frame. The painted canvases are portholes of ideality
which are perforated in the mute reality of the walls. They are openings
of illusion into which we can peer; thanks to the beneficent "window"
the frame. On the other hand, a corner of the city or countryside, seen
through the square outlines of the window seems to split off from reality
and acquire a strange palpitation of the ideal. "
The Gilded Frame
Through the ages the gilded frame has proved its popularity. "The
predominance of the gilded frame is due, perhaps, to the fact that metallic
paint is the material that gives off the most reflections. A reflection
is that note of color; of light, which contains no form in and of itself,
but which is pure, shapeless color."
Thus, the gilded frame, with its bristling halo of sharp-edged radiance,
inserts a ribbon of pure splendor between the painting and the real world.
Its reflections, acting like excited little daggers, incessantly cut the
lines that we unwittingly string up between the unreal painting and the
Translated from the Spanish by Andrea L. Bell.
Go to Fine Museum Conservation and Restoration Framing
See some of our custom frames: