EA WALTON: NOVEMBER
A FRAME OF 'RADICAL SIMPLICITY' FOR A LANDSCAPE BY 'A PAINTER OF ATMOSPHERE'
Roberts, Lynn. The Frame Blog: ‘How Pre-Raphaelite frames influenced Degas and the Impressionists’, 25th July 2017. Weller, Helen. Bourne Fine Art, Edinburgh Festival 1981 Catalogue, E.A. Walton 1860-1922.
Edward Arthur Walton (1860 – 1922) was a prominent founding member of The Glasgow Boys: a group of young artists who set out to challenge the established values of the art world in Scotland, heavily influenced by French naturalist painting of the time.
November, painted by Walton in 1882-3, shows a landscape in the Trossachs, near Brig of Turk, where Walton and some of The Boys spent their summers sketching. When we acquired November, it was in a somewhat underwhelming reproduction frame: a French style, with undulating outer edge known as “swept”, dating from the second half of the 20th century. This did nothing more than provide a decorative edge, so there was no doubt that it had to be reframed to do the painting justice. The style of the replacement frame, however, required some consideration.
The subtlety of Walton’s painting, the delicate colouring, the intense glow of the sky, led us towards a simple frame which would allow the painting to speak for itself. The subject matter shows ploughed fields, livestock, and a cottage just over the horizon. We wanted to make reference to the experimental ideas of The Glasgow Boys, who were creating frames, often in gilt oak profiles, which were heavily influenced by both JM Whistler and the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Inspiration for our frame was taken from the frame on A Funeral in the Highlands, (Glasgow Museums), painted by Walton’s close friend James Guthrie between 1881-2. It is a simple gilt oak frame of generous width, articulated by a step up to a flat frieze, and then a gentle slope away from the painting. There is no available information about the frame-maker, or the decision behind this choice, but its simple build and aesthetic seems entirely suitable for Guthrie’s sombre subject. We know that Walton influenced Guthrie in his decision to darken the tone of the painting, and their close friendship and belief in each other’s abilities supports our choice of Guthrie’s style of frame for Walton’s painting.
In the 1870s, Sir Charles Locke Eastlake, director of The National Gallery and arbiter of good taste at the time, had discussed the effect gilding has in ‘enhancing the value of colour’. Influential artists such as Rossetti, Whistler and Watts had been using gilded oak since the 1860s; Whistler was even going so far as to challenge Degas for intellectual rights over frame designs and finishes. Arthur Melville and William Stott of Oldham experimented with frame styles, the texture of the timber and the shade of gold used. It is to be assumed that The Glasgow Boys, active and internationally aware young men, discussed all aspects of their chosen professions, from colour theory to the effect of different frame profiles. As observed by Lynn Roberts in The Frame Blog, ‘leaving out the layers of gesso and applying the gold leaf directly to a beautifully-grained wood was a step made more radical by its very simplicity. It was also an economical action by young painters, removing several stages from a labour-intensive process’.
Having decided to make a frame similar to Guthrie’s, we scaled down the proportions to suit Walton’s smaller painting. The frame was made from European oak, by Honor Dalrymple, a young Scottish furniture maker, and was then oil gilded in 23 carat leaf, here at The Fine Art Society. The slightly paler yellow of this leaf allows the pinks in the sky to glow, lifts the highlights on the backs of the sheep, the smoke from the cottage, the bark of the trees. We hope Walton himself would have approved.
 Simon, Jacob. The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons, and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, p.17; Eastlake, Charles L. Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery and Other Details, 1868.
 Roberts, Lynn. The Frame Blog: ‘How Pre-Raphaelite frames influenced Degas and the Impressionists’, 25th July 2017.
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