Published: January 30, 2001
The Bucks County Framemaking Tradition
DOYLESTOWN, PENN. – It is not only the Pennsylvania Impressionists painters whose work has gained prominence in the wider world of American Art, but the talented and creative minds and hands of the Bucks County framemakers. “: The Bucks County Frame making Tradition,” runs through March 18 at the James A. Michener Art Museum.
The show tells the story of this small but well-regarded group of frame artists. More than 50 objects will be on display, including frames, frames with paintings by the Pennsylvania Impressionists, corner samples and framemaking tools. The work of the most renowned framemakers of the Bucks County tradition, Frederick Harer and Bernard “Ben” Badura, will be highlighted, as well as frames made by familiar Bucks County painters who fashioned frames for their own paintings, such as Arthur B. Carles, Arthur Metlzer, Kenneth Nunamaker and Ben Solowey.
Curator Erika Jaeger Smith explains, “This exhibition focuses on exploring the extraordinary frames that created a national frame center in the area, which are even more prized as works of art today.” Deeply rooted in the philosophy of the international Arts and Crafts movement, these artist/craftsmen rejected the mass production of decorative objects, and hardened back to the pre-industrialized age when craftsmanship was highly prized and raised to the level of elements of design, with high quality woodworking skills to create frames that stand alone as works of art.
“Like many of his friends and contemporaries, Solowey was an artist/craftsman who lavished attention and detail to every aspect of his work,” comments David Leopold, director of the Ben Solowey studio. “Framemaking was yet another outlet for his creative energy.”
Like Solowey, Frederick Harer and the framemakers who followed him epitomized the Arts and Crafts ideal. Harer grew up with a thorough knowledge of wood crafting and also had an artist’s sensibility. He was proficient in painting, sculpting, etching, in addition to frame making. Meticulously he developed his own formulas and techniques for gilding, burnishing and incising the frames. His designs reflected his love of nature through organic motifs, both inspired by the exotic places that he visited, and the Pennsylvania woodlands of his home. He often fashioned his own tools to punch and incise his unique designs on the frames. His frames were functional as well as exquisite.
The Pennsylvania Impressionists painters were extremely fond of these frames, as they were uniquely suited to their brand of landscape painting. Painters such as Daniel Garber and Edward Redfield commissioned frames for particular paintings, and the Bucks County framemakers produced one-of-a-kind frames created to unify painting and frame into a whole work of art.
As demand for these highly prized and painstakingly crafted frames increased, framemakers such as Philip N. Yates, Raymond Vanselous, R. Moore Price and Francis Coll migrated to the area and continued the tradition of artful framemaking. Today these exceptional frames grace the paintings of prominent Pennsylvania Impressionists paintings, increasing their artistic merit as well as their monetary value.
The James A. Michener Art Museum 138 South Pine Street, is open Tuesday through Friday 10 am to 4:30 pm; Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 5 pm; and Wednesday evenings until 9 pm. for information, call 215/340-9800.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm