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The Artist’s Guide to Ornate Frames

Posted by La Tourette's Gallery on 8/15/2019 to Framing Tips
The Artist’s Guide to Ornate Frames
As recently as a couple of centuries ago, only the rich could afford to own artwork. To reflect their wealth, they would not just purchase pieces of art, but also encase them in ornate frames made of gold and silver. These structures became engrained into the popular conception of paintings and other visual art.

Thanks to innovations in the intervening period, more people than ever before can now buy artwork of their own. The need to display it has not changed, but there are new types of frames you can use to showcase it. For artists and art-lovers alike, here is some information on the different kinds of ornate frames.

Ornate Gold Frames

If going all out with your presentation is your goal, you may want a legitimate ornate gold frame. One glance at this glittering border will show all beholders just how much you value the art within. Some gilt frames come plain — or as plain as they can get, being made of gold. Others have patterns etched on them for aesthetic purposes. Either way, it will be more expensive than other kinds of frames, but the result will be ornate in the truest sense.

Ornate Gold Frame and Wine Bottle

Gold Leaf and Metal Leaf Frames

Gold Leaf Metal Frame

Then there are the ornate frames with a special adornment: sculpted leaves that leap out and add dimension. This decoration endows the frame, a largely functional object, with aesthetic value — rendering it a work of art in itself. Whether you get one in gold or another material, leaf frames will be sure to catch attention. Even the most mundane artwork or photograph may look like something that belongs in a museum.

Acrylic Imitations

Acrylic Imitation Gold Frame

Some fans of the arts may prefer to save up for a beautiful work instead of splurging on a genuine gold picture frame. Others just want something that looks nice for their photos without breaking the bank. For these budget-conscious aesthetes, ornate acrylic frames serve their purposes just fine. Despite not costing as much as real gold, they look real and golden enough, thus fitting that classical ideal of how art should be presented.

Choosing an Ornate Frame

Choosing and ornate frame

In the eyes of many, the golden (or gilded) frame is the default frame for paintings and other visual art. However, it is not the only option. Frames made from other precious metals can also leave an impression. Ornate silver frames, for example, can wrap your paintings and photographs in a way that can actually outshine its gilded cousin. Acrylic frames can also come in many styles, patterns, and colors, and they can resemble silver, wood, and other materials.

When deciding which kind of ornate frame you should get, consider what goes best with the artwork. Think about aspects like tone, color, material, style, and the overall effect you wish to achieve. Frames do not have to simply be ornamental (in addition to functional, of course). They can complement the art, add to its effects and themes, and be part of the viewing experience. This is how gallery owners, museum curators, and the visual artists themselves approach the subject.

Perhaps most importantly, the frame you choose may be ornate, but it should not be distractingly lavish. It was created to present art, not to steal attention from it. As you make your decision, find something that can complement, highlight, and accentuate the contents.

When to Use an Ornate Frame

A question that may arise when choosing an ornate frame is, “Should I even use one when something simpler may suffice?” This line of thought is only logical, and the answer will vary from situation to situation. This includes location: if you are displaying artwork at a gallery or museum, the frame should look ornate but must at least be high-quality. These old-school borders may also be best suited for pieces rendered in more traditional styles than for pieces from more contemporary movements.

If you really want to know when to use an ornate frame, consider the impact that it would have. Ornate frames are designed to demonstrate the importance of the artwork or photograph it encircles. Using one means declaring it to be so valuable that no ordinary frame would be appropriate. Some artwork will warrant such treatment. With others, however, it might just seem overblown or even pompous, giving the effect that the art insists upon itself — or, perhaps worse, that you insist upon it.

Ultimately, you should use your own judgment and have a sense of what would be most tasteful. That mindset defines what it means to think like an artist and art-lover.
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