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A different frame of mind

June 3rd, 2019

Image by the AGO.

Meet the frame – the often forgotten but vital part of the art viewing experience. Step into any of the AGO’s galleries and you will find an array of frame shapes, sizes and styles. In fact, the AGO has a collection of more than 1,500 period frames, many of which are works of art in their own right. Most historical paintings are exhibited in antique frames, some original to the works, and some are created specifically for a piece on view. On Level 2 in our Thomson Collection of Canadian Art, (Galleries 202–222) paintings are framed in everything from the extremely ornate to modern and sleek.

The works in our Thomson Collection of Canadian Art are encased in original Canadian twentieth-century frames in a range of styles from French Renaissance to arts and crafts. These frames are made from a variety of materials including painted wood, gilding and fabric, intended to enhance the paintings they surround.

Many other paintings in AGO Collection are housed in a more contemporary style of frame known as floater frames. Floater frames can be identified by the gap between the frame’s interior and the outer edge of the displayed artwork, which creates the illusion that the work is floating. This type of frame is often used for works printed or painted on canvases and is popular with painters and photographers.

You may also notice in the AGO Collection certain mats which are hand-cut and hand-painted. They are often used to add additional decoration to the work and to separate the art from the glass. These carefully crafted mats are meant to complement the textured edges of the works they hold.

In Gallery 202 you can see examples of floater frames and hand-cut mats in use for three of Canadian artist Tom Thomson’s works, Pink Birches, Evening, Canoe Lake and Wild Cherry Trees in Blossom. Though he produced many large paintings including The West Wind, Thomson also produced hundreds of oil sketches on small, rectangular panels that were easy to travel with and used as references for his larger pieces.

Installation view of three Tom Thomson sketches. Works shown from left to right: Evening, Canoe Lake, Wild Cherry Trees in Blossom, and Pink Birches. Image by the AGO.

The three sketches in Gallery 202, like many in the Thomson Collection, are framed in minimal, off-white frames created by Toronto-based company The Gilder. To achieve a sense of harmony with the works, The Gilder tints the off-white of each frame with black, ochre or white pigments to highlight the work and match its palette.

See these and more on Level 2 in the Thomson Collection of Canadian Art. Admission is free for AGO Members, AGO Annual Pass holders, and visitors 25 and under.

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