American Frames, James McNeil Whistler, 1834-1903


His designs reflected the aesthetics of the Pre-Rafhaelites and the influence of the Oriental ceramics, Dutch frames, and the patterns he studied from the “Grammar of Ornaments” by Owen Jones, 1856. His 1860’s designs show bold, flat combined moldings with round medallions, ornaments encrusted in the corners, and sometimes centers of the panels which are reminiscent of those seen on the frames of Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s paintings, and patterns engraved on the gold creating geometrical textures. Orientalims are to be found in many of his frames. His later designs are the fluted and reeded moldings also seen in Rosetti’s earlier work.

These had a simpler, unadorned profile and only sometimes had designs painted in their panels, always with gilding tones to harmonize with the painting. This particular frame comes to be what we today call the “Whistler Frame”. Whistler was not a frame maker but often signed them with his butterfly cipher -- his concept was to integrate panting frame and environment in one as a whole.

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