American Frames, Stanford White, 1853-1906


Best known as one of the partners of the firm McKim, Mead, and White, he brought a fresh dynamic and new aesthetics to the frame design. White traveled to Europe early in his career and found himself profoundly in love with European art and architecture. He was a master at designing and interlacing the styles of different periods and of different countries, and was particularly inclined to the Italian Renaissance in his early life. Although primarily known as an architect, he cultivated friendships with the popular artists of the day. He had a long friendship with the sculptor August Saint-Gaudens (who designed many frames for his work) and his list of friends includes William Merritt Chase, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, John LaFarge, Abbot Thayer, John Singer Sargent, and John Twachtman.

Freer had White design many frames for his collection, a variety of which are displayed at the Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C. The art critic Aline Saarine wrote: “His deft hand turned in many directions. For his painter friends had conjured up frames; some of them sparkled with subtly raised snake-skin-like relief on flat moldings; others were so intricately lace-like that they must have taxed the ingenuity of the craftsmen who carved them from boxwood”. In an interview, Charles C. Baldwin said, “When Mr. White gets tired of designing houses he relaxes his brain with designed for picture frames”. Homer Saint Gaudens, the son of the talented sculptor August Saint-Gaudens and close friend of White, referred to White’s frames in his book The American Artist with: “Stanford White frames are in vogue as a revolt against gilded super deluxe embellishment”. Stanford White frames are simple edges of classical elements, designed to appropriately surround the classically derived image.

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