Variations in gold: the stylistic development of the picture frames used by James McNeill Whistler

Parkerson, Sarah Lawrence (2007) Variations in gold: the stylistic development of the picture frames used by James McNeill Whistler. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The picture frames used by the American painter James McNeill Whistler developed stylistically throughout his career. This thesis identifies these developments, defines the characteristics indicative of each design, and contextualises their creation within Whistler’s larger body of work.

First-hand examinations of over a hundred frames, in both the United Kingdom and the United States, resulted in challenging the generic understanding that a ‘Whistler frame’ is characterised only by reeded ornamentation. These physical examinations are cross-referenced with the significant amount of correspondence existing between Whistler and his contemporaries, thanks in large part to the publication of the on-line edition of The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler. This thesis argues that the stylistic developments present in Whistler’s frames are directly linked to his understanding and perception of the frame’s function.

Chapter 1 outlines that a picture frame can serve one of three functions: (1) as a decorative art object linking the painting to the environment, (2) as a decorative art object dividing the painting from the environment, or (3) as an extension of the painting. This thesis also applies the additional approach that the picture frame functions as an indicator of the provenance for both the painting and frame.

Chapter 2 explores this method of provenance by examining Whistler’s reframing habits.

Chapter 3 explores Whistler’s friendship with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his early designs from 1864. These frames are observed as extending the painting to become a cohesive whole.

Chapter 4 documents Whistler’s earliest attempt at painted frames and their development into incised ornament.

Chapter 5 explores the effect that Whistler’s interior designs (including the Peacock Room) had on his frames.

Chapter 6 focuses on the frame created during the 1880s and addresses the framing of Whistler’s works on paper.

Chapter 7 examines Whistler’s working relationship with Fredrick Henry Grau and the preparations made for the 1892 Goupil Gallery exhibition Nocturnes, Marines and Chevalet Pieces.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NK Decorative arts Applied arts Decoration and ornament
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Supervisor's Name: MacDonald, Prof. Margaret
Date of Award: 2007
Depositing User: Angi Shields
Unique ID: glathesis:2007-4471
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2013 09:16
Last Modified: 16 Jul 2013 09:16

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