A recent Bark Frameworks job that involved framing three Degas pastels. This is Part I of a two-part article. Part II will appear in the October 2014 Newsletter.
Edgar Degas was an inventive designer of frames. In several of his notebooks from 1879-1884 appear some forty frame profile drawings of striking originality. But only a few of the artist’s frame designs appear to have migrated from the notebooks to the frame shop. And since dealers and collectors were inclined to remove Degas’s own frames and replace them with conventional ornate, gilded mouldings, contemporary examples of Degas’s frame designs are rare. Designing frames for his works is therefore seldom a simple matter of looking at the precedents, since only a handful exist.
We were recently invited to design and make frames for three Degas pastels. Our designer Paul Jordan, consulting with Jed Bark, followed a design process that we have established for framing the works of artists from the Impressionist period until the present. First, we look to the artist’s own preferences; then, to those of his contemporaries and peers. Finally–especially if examples of these are few—we look to those of dealers and collectors at the time. This is just the research agenda—bearing the precedents in mind, we look at the work itself and consider how best to present it in its own terms and for the collection for which it is intended. In framing these three Degas pastels, for each work we took a somewhat different variant of this approach. In this month’s newsletter we will briefly consider a few of Degas’s frames that we have studied and describe our framing solution for one of these pastels. Next month we will discuss the framing of the other two (see also “‘Pictures properly framed:’ Degas and innovation in Impressionist frames” by Elizabeth Easton and Jared Bark. The Burlington Magazine. September 2008).
One of the three original Degas frames hanging in The Metropolitan Museum of Art surrounds “The Collector of Prints.” This pastel entered the museum’s collection in 1929 as part of the Havemeyer bequest. Louisine Havemeyer bought it right from Degas’s studio, and he sent it to her in this frame. That this original Degas frame was once in the collection of Louisine Havemeyer is fitting, because she was rare in honoring Degas’s intention that his work be framed simply and in the manner he prescribed. The frame around “Collector” is very simple; a fluted rail and a panel. It is sometimes referred to as a “passepartout” frame, referring to the French designation for what we call in English a “window mat.”