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Framing "Christina's World" by Andrew Wyeth

The Museum of Modern Art's frame shop crafts unique frames for art pieces. The best frame doesn't draw attention but complements the artwork. For example, the frame for "Cristina's World" was redesigned to better fit the painting. The process involves considering the frame's weight, not touching the artwork, and selecting the right wood and stain. Created by The Museum of Modern Art.

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Video transcript

(modern music) - [Peter] The frame shop here at the Museum of Modern Art is actually unique. We do most of the framing for the collection, for exhibitions and traveling exhibitions. Anything that is wood is made inside. We have a small woodworking shop. We have seven people working at the department but we produce a tremendous amount of work. In the case of Cristina's World, it can't be too modern. It has to fit with a certain context. Ultimately the best frame is the one that doesn't call attention to itself. The frame has a way of pushing and pulling. Normally if you had a landscape, it would be what is called a cove, a frame that comes out and creates a window into the work. This works in reverse. This one the painting come forward and the frame goes back. The first thing I wanted to do was to understand why the frame was not working. What is it about the frame that could be improved upon? It was not original to the work. Framers talk about frames in terms of weight, not necessarily in terms of look. The frame could be too light, it could be too heavy. The frame that it had was a little bit light. A little (mumbles) even though it had a gold band on the inside. The gilded liner of the frame was actually touching the chimneys of the house. Wyeth spent a great deal of time and effort coming all the way too the edge. So what's important that we see the entire panel. This painting actually is floating. There are two frames in one here. It's not damaging or causing any pressure. Many of the frames that Wyeth selected for his work were painted and he always wanted to pick a color from the painting and use that color in the frame. If the artist does it it's one thing, but a framer should not be doing that. I picked what I thought would be a very natural wood and basically set the painting within the frame as a beautiful little jewel. The whole frames is made from one single piece of wood so that the grain just continues. We knew from the beginning that we were going to have a gold band. I decided to put a cove on the inside to separate the gilding. The next step is to design the panel. One element that would justify angling the panel to the outside is the roof of the house. Then you have to decide how that panel is going to end. This is an abrupt stop. It has another angle to the back. The frame will appear almost floating on the wall because when you light it it's going to cast a shadow behind it. After you make the frame then you start thinking about the different stains. Once you put a stain on the panel you can't take it off and that's where you come in. We're making as many samples as possible using the exact same piece of wood. You can see the difference if you put them next to it. These are very very minor variations that ultimately you don't pay attention to, but in terms of the framing it's rather important and it has a way of affecting how we see a painting. (modern music)