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Modern museum frame history

pete schramm

New participant
[FONT=&quot]This question might seem strange but here goes: It all started with the photography exhibit at the Jepson by a former SCAD student.

She framed her images using white "museum" frames (instead of black) so that, the frame would have less visual detraction from the picture (made perfect sense). In fact, the overall exhibit layout was well executed (e.g. gray walls, good spacing etc.)

The result is that it got me thinking about writing an article for the Telfair Museum docents on the history of the modern black (as well as white) museum frame. Personally, in the past I have made a habit of accepting the frame without thought, but when I started digging into the use of this frame style I realized that its source appears to be something that has gotten no attention from the art history community.

We all know and love the frame styles of the nineteen century that seem to have emerged from a grand tradition, but the black frame has generated little discussion.

I can imagine that the Bauhaus period of radical experimentation in "modern styles' in all the arts (1920's) could have contributed to its use in new museums at the time, like the MoMA but it is really a guess. Stieglitz may well have preceded the Bauhaus at his NY gallery 921.

In summary I would love know if you have come across any references that might shed some light on the origins/history of the black/white museum frame.



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[FONT=&quot]Thank you
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[FONT=&quot]Pete Schramm
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Telfair Museums, Master Docent[/FONT]
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Jerry Feig CPF

Frequent Poster
Certified Picture Framer®
Simple black frames were used in the early 19th century for many small items such as cut paper silhouette portraits.

A Dover reprint of "Victorian wooden molding and frame design" pg 64, catalog from 1910, shows examples.
 

Paul Macfarland

New participant
Master Certified Picture Framer®
GCF Guild
I am also writing a story on this, feel free to give me a call or email.
I have worked on early 19th century silhouettes with thin black lacquer mouldings. The same patterns appear with early photo presentation, basically out of need for economy. Malevich used several thin black frames for the 1915 Suprematist show. But I think it was the Museum of Modern Art’s 1959 Alfred Stieglitz show designed and fabricated by Robert Kulicke who based the design on Mies Van de Rohe’s Barcelona Chair (1928) that really locked it in for modern shows.
 

Rhonda Feinman

New participant
I agree with the comments above. The simple black frame was for economy and goes back to early American frame history as a device to hold the art and glass together. The white frame was made popular by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I believe, but may be wrong on the date, in the late 70's when one of the curators decided to change all frames to white to blend in with the walls and not distract from the art.
 

pete schramm

New participant
To All,
Thx so much. I will follow up on the leads you have given me. I would be grateful for any references to your comments. It feels as though I may be getting somewhere!
 
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