Bucks County Frames
Bucks County Arts and Crafts Frames
Around the turn of the 19th century American painters in keeping with the Art’s and Craft’s movement began rejecting elaborate factory-made composition moldings in favor of simpler hand finished frames. Buck’s County was an art center with nationally known impressionist landscape painters and skilled craftsmen. Thus artists were able to work closely with frame makers to create designs and finishes that best suited their art work and also their budget. The resulting frames are simple, elegant and in total harmony with the paintings they surround.
It is interesting to note that the basic shape of Buck’s county frames date to the origins of picture framing in the style of the 16thcentury Italian cassetta molding. This box shape with flat panel surrounded by raised molding has been in continuous use with various embellishments since.
At times modified Spanish frames with caved leaf corners were also in use yet still retained the basic flat panel.
The influence of James McNeil Whistler frames is apparent as he designed a similar flat panel frame with fluted rails for his own paintings late in the 19th C.
Artist, turned craftsman Frederick William Harer is the originator of the Buck’s county frame maker’s style. His exotic panel designs were inspired by extensive travels to Spain and the West Indies. As the son of a successful furniture maker he was trained in wood working from an early age and still used his father’s tools. His hand crafted frames are meticulously designed, carved, gilded and patinated to harmonize with the paintings. One distinct feature is the notch carving in the corners and centers.
He signed his frames, carved on the back and these works of art are often are much more valuable than the paintings they surround.
As demand for his frames became overwhelming Harer, in 1927 took on as apprentice. Bernard “Ben” Badura. Also an accomplished PAFA trained artist he realized that it would be very difficult to support himself with
painting and turned to frame making and stained glass production as a source of income. Eventually, in 1932, he opened his own shop. He inherited his mentor’s design books, tools and samples when Harer died in 1948 and used the same basic molding designs. Badura also introduced his own carved patterns and unique finishes. In keeping with the modernist influence some of his frames were left ungilded with designs scratched into the gesso itself. Some of his silver leaf frames have oxidized to a beautiful grey that is perfect with the color palette of the Bucks County Impressionists.
Harer and Badura inspired other frame makers in the region but none were as original as the frames made by these two men. Framers of note that show Harer influence are Raymond Vanselous and Francis Coll and Philip Yates. Artists Charles Hassam and Maurice Prendergast also used the flat panel shape with simple carving for their own frame designs. The Buck’s County impact on American frames is notable and they elevated frames to an art form that is now sought out by museums and collectors. Firms such as Foster Brothers of Boston and Newcomb-Macklin continued this tradition throughout the 20th Century.
Excellent replicas of these and other period frames can be fabricated on demand. We, at Ursula Hobson Fine Art Framing, can assist with the correct proportion and finish for individual works of art.
For more information and to view original frames visit the James Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.