Many artists have designed, painted, or made their own frames. Stuyvesant High School Construction and World Trade Center is by artist Simeon Lagodich, who also made the frame.
This 17th-century Dutch baroque ebonized frame now fitted as a mirror sold for $3,000 at Sotheby's in 2008. Other ways to use old frames: as medicine-cabinet doors, serving trays, message boards, and room dividers as well as for children's drawings.
A notable framer of the early 20th century was Carrig-Rohane (Gaelic for "red cliff"). Founded by artists Hermann Murphy and Charles Prendergast (brother of artist Maurice) in Boston in 1903. (In 1911, the frame shop became Thulin-Murphy, then Vose Galleries in 1915.) Signature style? Hand-carved frames that harmonize with the painting. "The backs are painted terra-cotta color and are inscribed with the year and frame number," notes frames scholar Tracy Gill.
Another Boston framer was Foster Brothers, founded in 1875. Foster Brothers was known for ripple molding, elaborate hand-carving, and gilding.
Chicago-based framer Newcomb-Macklin was founded by John Newcomb and Charles Macklin in 1894. The firm was noted for its gilding and copies of frames made by Stanford White.
Aesthetic movement frames have super-stylized natural motifs that later morph into the whiplash lines of Art Nouveau. The design mashup appeals to romantics like Tracy Gill, a former senior editor at Victoria magazine.
Arts and Crafts frames are notable for their artisanal quality, with hand-carved and hand-rubbed patina. Favored by American Impressionists.
Modern frames exhibit subtle sophistication. Mid-century wormy chestnut frames (the frame shown here with ruffled edges) enhance without overpowering. Collectors prize Mod frames by the House of Heydenryk.
. Gold leaf. American Impressionists and architect Stanford White were gold bugs. Never tarnishes.
. Metal leaf. A mix of copper, tin, and zinc. Less formal; often used for Western scenes.
. Roman gilding. Bronze finish goes with grittier subjects. (Think Ash Can as well as Aesthetic and Taos schools.)
. Silver leaf. Cool look. "Good for snow and nocturnal scenes," says Gill. Tarnishes beautifully.
Framed (left to right): Leslie Keno, Tracy Gill, Simeon Lagodich, Leigh Keno.