The renewal of a painting,
melding artistry with technical precision
The act of preserving art extends beyond the artist's final brushstroke. It involves a meticulous process that custom picture framing provides. As I embarked on the renewal of a painting by Oscar E. Berninghaus, an artist whose work is steeped in the rich tapestry of the American West, it became a perfect moment to meld artistry with technical precision.
Berninghaus, a pivotal member of the Taos Society of Artists, portrayed the West with a narrative depth that has become a valuable part of our cultural heritage. His pieces are historical dialogues made visual, chronicling an era that continues to fascinate and inform. As a custodian of such a piece, I am reminded that the longevity of these artworks is partially in my hands.
The original frame, while it had safeguarded the painting for many years, was no longer fit to offer the protection required. Yet, its design was a piece of history itself, reflective of Berninghaus's time. The decision was made to honor the original frame's aesthetic—a gold leaf finish that exemplified the elegance and grandeur typical of the period. Gold frames were a hallmark of the era's art presentation, often used to signify importance and to complement the lush palette of the Western landscapes.
In custom picture framing, every choice is crucial for long-term preservation. The matting and backing materials need to be acid-free, ensuring that they won’t degrade or discolor the artwork over time. It is here that the technical must harmonize with the aesthetic—the materials selected must be of archival quality to prevent any chemical interactions that could compromise the art.
For Berninghaus's work, archival matting was selected to act as a protective buffer. This conservation-grade matting ensures that the artwork does not come into direct contact with any harmful substances. Matting, in its essence, is a spacer between the art and the glazing material; it serves to protect the piece from condensation and buildup of mold spores that could occur due to temperature changes—a silent but deadly foe for fine art.
Optium Museum Acrylic, chosen for its superior protective qualities, is the result of advanced technology in glazing options for custom framing. Unlike traditional glass, this material offers a virtually invisible barrier that blocks up to 99% of UV light rays, which are known to cause fading and deterioration. It also resists scratching and can repel dust, ensuring that the painting beneath remains pristine.
The acid-free backing completes the framing ensemble, creating a secure environment free from the dangers of acidity that often accompany standard framing materials. This protective measure is especially crucial for works that will be appreciated not just for a few years, but for generations.
Custom framing is an art form that requires a balance of technical knowledge and aesthetic sensibility. The significance of selecting the right materials cannot be overstated in the context of art history. As we aim to preserve the legacies of artists like Berninghaus, it's the understanding of materials science combined with an appreciation of historical value that guides the process.
By integrating these technical aspects of custom framing with the reverence due to such historical pieces, we ensure that these works do not merely survive but continue to convey their stories and retain their beauty. In the context of art history, this is our contribution to preserving the narratives that paintings hold, allowing them to be retold and appreciated anew with each generation.
The renaissance of this Berninghaus painting in its new frame is not just a transformation—it's a commitment to art preservation, a testament to the harmony of historical appreciation and the science of conservation framing. As this painting now graces our collector’s home, its narrative endures, supported by the invisible yet crucial decisions made in the framing process, a lasting dialogue between the past and the future.