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Masters' Library


Picture Frame Making for Amateurs by James Lukin, 1882



Although the art of producing pictures is thousands of years older than that of making frames, yet when once the latter were introduced the former gained considerably in appearance.

Indeed, when mural decoration had succeeded the rude sketches upon the naked rocks and stones, and frescoes were in turn replaced by works of a portable character on panel and canvas, some kind of frame became absolutely necessary to form a border to the composition and to isolate it from others.

The earlier frames were doubtless of a very simple character, but were soon succeeded by handsomely carved work, often of exquisite taste and finish, and indicating frequently, in the case of a portrait, the favorite pursuits of the original. Such is the carved frame around the portrait of Izaak Walton, in the Hall of Brasenose College, with its rods and tackle, goodly trout, and other details of the fisher's art and skill.

Artists of good repute engaged in this carved work, the frame being prepared for the exercise of their skill by the carpenter or frame maker, who, in that case, merely fitted the parts together.

This work was, of course, of a costly character, suited only to the canvases of artists of acknowledged celebrity employed by the rich; others were content with plain wood frames of the simplest kind, and often very badly painted to imitate foreign wood.

Gilt frames after a while superseded in a great degree those elaborated by the carver, and composition ornaments replaced the more costly ones cut from the solid.


Of late years these gilt composition framed have been more generally used than any others, especially a design known as Alhambra - a rich moulding of bold character, with generally a broad plain mat inside.

They are got up very cheaply, even when the best gilding is used, and at a still cheaper rate when copper leaf, lacquered, and is substituted for the real gold. Tet of these frames I have said but little in the following pages, because an amateur would not succeed in making them; but, at the same time, he might, perhaps, be able to repair a frame of which a part of the moulding or ornament bad been accidentally broken.

These pages are accordingly devoted to wooden frames requiring neither many tools nor expensive materials, and include those in which the fretsaw alone, or in combination with the carving tool, comes into use. Oxford frames, which of late years have been deservedly in high favor among amateur frame-makers, are introduced, both of the original simple form, and more or less elaborately decorated.

Picture-frame making affords great scope for skill and taste, and the lighter kinds of frame are within the capabilities of the lady amateur, who may pass many a delightful hour in this useful pursuit.

J. L.

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