Recently, Lowy had the opportunity to assist with the framing of over 40 watercolors and paintings for the important Marin and the Critics exhibition at Menconi and Schoelkopf gallery. While we always love framing the works of great artists, what makes this project particularly meaningful for Lowy is that Marin viewed his art and the surrounding frame as a total visual experience. He believed they should work together to express his vision, a unique perspective for a modern artist, and one that speaks to Lowy’s core philosophy of framing.
John Marin (1870-1953) was a hugely influential early modernist painter who helped introduce a new aesthetic to American art and was an important influence for the Abstract Expressionist painters, Even though the watercolor medium was perceived as less important than oil painting at the time, Marin embraced watercolor and developed the gestural abstract style he pursued throughout his career, and for which he is now known. His dealer, Alfred Stieglitz, recognized that framing played an extremely important role in Marin’s art and encouraged him to collaborate and experiment with framer George Of, with whom he created the painted stepped frames that came to be known as ‘Marin’ style frames.
Marin’s ideas about presentation evolved with his painting. He paid close attention to the relationship between edges and frames, and he often framed his watercolors without mats or borders, as if they were oil paintings. He used flat frames that extended the art, painted finishes that created a pleasing harmony with the palette, and subtle variations in stepped profiles and ivory enamel finishes, all supporting Marin’s idea that the area surrounding the painting was very important real estate.
Ever experimenting, Marin tried to create a dialogue between art and edge. He floated his images on gilded or colored mounts, carefully selecting the mounts for each work. If he chose a gold mount, for example, the effect was meant to be jarring, and to compete with the watercolor. In other cases, his goal was to achieve what one curator called “Blessed Equilibrium,” a subtle and harmonious balance between the painting and its surround.
In the1930’s, Marin constructed and painted some of his frames, using colors that echoed the palette of the watercolor and extended the art onto the frame. Sometimes, he incorporated found materials for a sculptural effect. “If I were younger,” said Marin, “I’d plunge into sculpture, but my frame-making will have to satisfy my sculptural urges.”
Over time, many of Marin’s original frames and mounts were separated from his watercolors, a tragic loss. This would not happen today, when Marin’s framing choices and self-made frames are highly regarded as expressions of the artist’s intention.
In this spirit, Lowy vice president, Brad Shar, collaborated with Andy Schoelkopf and the Marin estate to recreate Marin’s frames to the artist’s specifications, using frame moldings and finishes with subtle variations for each unique work. Explains Shar, “Working from the artist’s original profile sketches, we adjusted size and color to strike a balance between the artist’s aesthetic and contemporary decor trends. The frames selected were simple stepped moldings finished in polished gesso, ivory enamel paint, and gray-tinted shellac, just as the original moldings were fabricated.”
Adds Shar, “What I love most about this project is that it gave us the opportunity to think like the artist. Marin viewed the frame as an extension of the painting and was very particular about his choices. This has been a memorable collaboration for Lowy and we’re pleased that we were able to bring this extraordinary artist’s vision to life with frames that are beautiful and authentic.”