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Exhibition Chronicles the Evolution of American Frames
(November, 2000, #018)

CHADDS FORD, PA - An exhibition featuring more than 100 American frames opens January 27, 2001 at the Brandywine River Museum. The Frame in America: 1860-1960 chronicles one of the most prolific and creative periods of American frame design. The exhibition also focuses on the tools, materials and methods used in frame manufacture and gilding.

Frames are a subject of increasing popular interest and study. In recent years, museums and collectors have been concerned with presenting works of art in appropriate period frames. By removing the frame from its original context, this innovative exhibition allows the viewer to appreciate a wonderful diversity of design and technique. While many American examples owe much to European precedents, others represent a departure in aesthetic conception and function, offering distinctly American styles.

Included in the exhibition are working drawings, photographs of frame makers, cross-sections of frames, design catalogues, and many other associated items. James McNeill Whistler's reeded frames, Renaissance-inspired frames designed by Stanford White, and painted frames created by American modernists such as Lee Gatch are some of the dramatic examples of artists' frames. The contributions of leading late-19th-century framemaking establishments, such as the Newcomb-Macklin Company of Chicago and Carrig-Rohane Shop in Boston, are highlighted.

The Frame in America: 1860-1960 is organized by the International Institute for Frame Study and toured by Exhibits USA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance.

In conjunction with The Frame in America, the Brandywine River Museum presents Carved by Frank Coll, a significant small exhibition of work by Francis A. Coll, a frame maker who worked in Wilmington, Delaware, from the mid 1920s through the 1960s. This is the first time that Coll's work and career have been examined carefully. During his lifetime, Coll mastered an array of styles, from moldings carved with floral motifs and then gilded in pale silvery gold to bold moldings of black lacquer with simple, geometric carving.

Today, Coll's distinctive frames enhance paintings in the collections of the Brandywine River Museum, the Delaware Art Museum, the Historical Society of Delaware, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the University of Delaware.

The Brandywine River Museum's collection includes eleven frames by Coll, many found in N.C. Wyeth's studio. Coll was a contemporary and friend of Wyeth, who used some of Coll's more elaborate examples to frame paintings he sent to important exhibitions.

Around 1926, Wyeth engaged Coll to produce a six-foot high tabernacle-style frame with carved decorations for a picture of pirates Wyeth had painted for the industrialist Carl Fisher. Later, Wyeth and Coll collaborated on a mirror frame that hung in N.C. Wyeth's bedroom-Coll carved the frame and Wyeth supplied the painted glass panel that was set into the frame. Coll also advised Wyeth on the gilding that decorates Wyeth's triptych in the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Frank Coll was an important adjunct to the Wilmington art community in the first half of the 20th century, a local link to the great tradition of hand-made picture frames. Both The Frame in America and Carved by Frank Coll continue through March 18, 2001.

The Brandywine River Museum is located on U.S. Route 1 just south of PA Route 100 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The museum is open daily, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults; $2.50 for seniors and students; free for members and children under 6. For more information, please call (610) 388-2700 or visit the museum's website at

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Brandywine River Museum, U.S. Route 1 and PA Route 100
P.O. Box 141, Chadds Ford, PA 19317
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© 2001 Brandywine Conservancy