Picture frames, do we still need them? Nowadays, with the popularity of the 1,5 inches thickness canvas, picture frames seem to have been forgotten. Following the trends, most people will first look at the thick canvas first when shopping for a painting. The other reason is because it might be more convenient for people who do not want to shop for the frames. Sometimes, we just don’t know which frame to choose. There are so many ! I was actually part of those people. But after a conversation with the artist Lau Po Shin, it made me realize how much more beautiful a painting with a frame is. I was amazed of the difference.

Match the Painting Style

Matching the painting style is very important. If the painting and the frame are completely different in terms of colors and styles, sure, one or the other will stand out for a reason but it will not be comfortable to look at. In that case, it will be better to choose a frame that is less eye-catching than the painting so that it allows the painting to stand out. Drawing the attention to the painting is the main goal.

The following are some common matching:

Contemporary and Modern Art, Abstract Art : Plain Frames with minimum trimming or none at all

Landscapes with details : Traditional looking frames with scrollwork or gilts.

Landscape with minimum details : Modern frames with plain geometric frames.

Portrait : Besides traditional looking frames, we often see portraits of important people with ornate frames.

Here are some examples of oil paintings by Po Shin Lau ( 樓寶善, 楼宝善 ) with frames:

Color of the Frame

Besides acting as a protection, a frame is used to complete a painting with the purpose to enhance the appearance. For this, we have to avoid choosing a frame that is too similar, in terms of colors, to the painting. Allowing some contrast is important. It will make the painting to stand out in the room. As an example, if a painting is mainly light in colors, having a little bit darker frame will allow the painting to stand out. But it is important to choose a complement color.

Po Shin Lau told me this:

The above painting is mainly dark in colors with some leaves that are mainly yellow. For the frame, Po Shin Lau chose one that matches this touch of yellow. The golden frame is lighter in terms of colors. This will allow the painting to stand out. And it is important that the frame is somehow related to the painting. It completes the painting with the golden color that matches the yellow leaves. It looks like a continuation. Our attention is to the painting, while the frame completes it and allows it to stand out. Without frame, the painting will be a little bit too dark. I first looked at the painting without the frame. It didn’t really attract me until Po Shin chose a frame for it. I thought it was another painting until I realized it was the one that I did not pay attention to.

See the difference !

Here are the most important points to consider when choosing a frame:

1. The Frame has to match the style of the painting.

2. The Frame allows the painting to stand out and not detract from it.

3. The Frame is a complement color of the painting.

4. The Frame brings some contrast.

5. The Frame completes the painting.

For Po Shin, he chooses the frame with the same principles as he contemplates arts. In his article : Contemplating Art, he shares with us his point of view on what is qualified as a good art for him. As he says:

The Art of Choosing a Frame

Choosing the right frame for a painting is a form of art by itself. It requires time and trial and errors. The more we try to mix and match, the more we get to know the different effects every of it brings. It is not something that we can learn in an hour or two. It requires practice and experience. However, paying attention to those basic points will already help us to look at paintings differently.