Lynn Roberts: Artist
& Picture Frame Historian






An international frame conference

"The Transforming Power of the Frmae"

was held in

New York

in September 2008


See report of the previous frame conference here








The Transforming Power of the Frame:
Makers, Marriages & Materials -
Exploring American Frames & Frames in America
September 18-20, 2008


This conference focused on the frame in America, where European models and practice initially predominated until local preferences emerged and prevailed. By the mid-19th century, frames appropriate to the ambitions of a self-defined American school of painting were devised; styles evolved along with fashions in furniture and decoration, and were also still influenced by European or exotic sources. American artists such as Church, Whistler and Eakins designed frames unique to individual artworks, viewing the pairing as a unified whole. By the 20th century, the challenge of framing Modernist artworks provoked a variety of responses. Today, if some contemporary artists dispense with frames altogether, others intently reconsider the interplay of field and border.

Papers given at the conference included considerations of techniques and stylistic sources; and artists' frames, from18th-century patterns, through those of Chambers, Cole, Eakins, Dewing, Tryon, Hassam, to those of the Modernists & contemporary artists. The framing of specific iconic works, such as Leutze's Washington Crossing the Delaware or Church's Twilight in the Wilderness were addressed, as was the practice of reframing and presenting major collections. The rôle of the collector and connoisseur was considered, as was that of architects, such as Stanford White; similarly, the influence of museums and the marketplace.


Lisa Koenigsberg, conference director; president, Initiatives in Art and Culture, she launched the series of annual conferences on American art in 1996 and on frames in 1997. Formerly: director, Programs in the Arts and adjunct professor of arts, NYU/SCPS; assistant director for project funding, Museum of the City of New York; executive assistant, Office of the President, American Museum of Natural History; architectural historian, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; and guest curator, Worcester Art Museum and Yale University Art Gallery. Her writings have appeared in books and journals, among them The Gilded Edge: The Art of the Frame (2000), Architecture: A Place for Women (1990), The Architectural Historian in America (1991), the Archives of American Art Journal, the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, and the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society. She collaborated with Suzanne Smeaton on an essay for the catalog for Auspicious Vision: Edwin Wales Root and American Modernism, an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Edwin Root Bequest to the Munson-Williams Proctor Art Institute

David L. Barquist, The H. Richard Dietrich, Jr., Curator of American Decorative Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art. Prior to coming to Philadelphia in 2004, he served as assistant, associate, and acting curator of American Decorative Arts at the Yale University Art Gallery. His publication American Tables and Looking Glasses in the Mabel Brady Garvan and Other Collections at Yale University (with essays by Elisabeth D. Garrett and Gerald W.R. Ward, 1992) received the Charles F. Montgomery Prize from the Decorative Arts Society. He is also the author of Myer Myers: Jewish Silversmith in Colonial New York, (with essays by Jon Butler and Jonathan D. Sarna, 2001) and the introductory essay "Presidents and Porcelain: 'To Fix the Taste of Our Country Properly'" in American Presidential China: The Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (ed. S. G. Detweiler, 2008). He has contributed to collection catalogues for the Albany Institute of History and Art, Concord Museum, and the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State. He currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks and as President of the Decorative Arts Society.

Carrie Rebora Barratt, curator, American Paintings and Sculpture, and manager, The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; co-curator and co-author, "John Singleton Copley in America" (1995-1996) and "Gilbert Stuart" (2004-2005); curator and author, "Queen Victoria and Thomas Sully" (2000); currently preparing a collection catalogue of the museum's American portrait miniatures and an exhibition on American narrative painting. Her interest in frames is longstanding: she curated "American Frames in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," (1990) and has overseen tremendous research into the Museum's frames and many significant reframings of the collection's highlights. She is also a contributor to The Gilded Edge: The Art of the Frame (2000).

Adrienne Baxter Bell, assistant professor of Art History at Marymount Manhattan College, authored George Inness and the Visionary Landscape (2003) and curated an exhibition of the same name for the National Academy Museum that traveled to the San Diego Museum of Art in 2004. She edited and introduced a collection of writings by and about Inness entitled George Inness: Writings and Reflections on Art and Philosophy (2007). She has received several fellowships and awards for her work, including the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. She has participated in symposia at New York University, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Cedar Grove/Olana Historic Site, and the Museo di Santa Giulia, Brescia. Her current research includes the first biography and critical analysis of the work of Charles Caryl Coleman.

Mark Bockrath, paintings conservator; is in private practice with Barbara A. Buckley & Associates in West Chester, PA. He was formerly Paintings Conservator and professor in the graduate conservation program at Winterthur Museum. He was also formerly chief conservator at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and a conservator at the Intermuseum Laboratory in Oberlin, Ohio and at the Washington Conservation Studio in Kensington, Maryland. His research has included catalogue essays on the materials and techniques of Thomas Eakins, Horace Pippin and Maxfield Parrish, and on Cecilia Beaux's frame choices.

Mark Cole, associate curator of American painting and sculpture, Cleveland Museum of Art. Currently he is reinstalling these holdings, for which he launched a reframing initiative, as part of the museum's extensive renovation and expansion project. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Delaware and is a specialist in Magic Realist painting, the subject of a forthcoming traveling exhibition he is organizing. He has lectured and published on a variety of topics, including Beaux-Arts mural painting, New Deal-era African American artistic production, and commodity sculpture of the 1980s.

Kathleen A. Foster, Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Senior Curator of American Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Director of the Museum's Center for American Art. Former curator of Western Art after 1800 at the Indiana University Art Museum, and chief curator at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; she has taught at Yale, Williams, Temple, and Indiana University, and is now adjunct professor of the history of art at the University of Pennsylvania. Her scholarship has ranged from early 19th-century watercolor painting (Captain Watson's Travels in America, 1997) to American Impressionism (Daniel Garber, 1980) and Regionalism (Thomas Hart Benton and the Indiana Murals, 2000), although much of her research has been on Thomas Eakins (Writing About Eakins, 1989; Thomas Eakins Rediscovered, (1997), and essays in Thomas Eakins (2001). Other publications on Abbey, Eakins, La Farge, and the American Pre-Raphaelites reflect a long-standing interest in the history of American drawings and watercolors, as do her contributions to American Art in the Princeton University Art Museum: Volume 1: Drawings and Watercolors (American Art in the Princeton University Art Museum) (2004). Forthcoming this fall is a book accompanying the touring exhibition "Thomas Chambers 1808-1869, American Landscape and Marine Painter."

Lee Glazer, associate curator of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution's Freer Gallery of Art/ Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, where her most recent exhibitions include "Surface Beauty: American Art and Freer's Aesthetic Vision" and "Seascapes: Tryon & Sugimoto." She has published on a range of topics in American art including Whistler, Romare Bearden, and 19th-century popular song and illustration, with her most recent publication being James McNeill Whistler in Context, a multi-author volume of essays from an international symposium held in Glasgow in 2003.

Susan Larkin, independent art historian, she contributed an essay on Hassam's framing choices to the catalogue of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition Childe Hassam: American Impressionist (2004). She is also the author of The Cos Cob Art Colony: Impressionists on the Connecticut Shore (National Academy of Design and Yale University Press, 2001), American Impressionism: The Beauty of Work (Bruce Museum, 2005), Top Cats: The Life and Times of The New York Public Library Lions (2006), and, with H. Barbara Weinberg, American Impressionists Abroad and at Home: Paintings from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (American Federation of Arts, 2001). Susan Larkin received her Ph.D. from the Graduate School of the City University of New York.

Sarah Parkerson, adjunct professor of Art History, North Carolina State University; recently finished her doctoral dissertation on the picture frames of James McNeill Whistler under the supervision of Dr. Margaret MacDonald at the University of Glasgow. Her work, titled, 'Variations in Gold: the stylistic development of the picture frames used by James McNeill Whistler,' cross-referenced first-hand examinations of over 100 Whistler frames with an in-depth analysis of primary source materials. She also created an illustrated database, compiling information on measurements, gilding techniques, frame construction etc. Her interest in frames began while a sophomore at Hollins University when she interned for Richard Murray at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum, where the Stanford White frames captured and still hold her imagination. She is currently cataloging a large collection of frames in Washington, DC.

Lynn Roberts, art historian, has studied picture frames as a researcher, author, and archivist; among her publications are FRAMEWORKS and A History of European Picture Frames (both with P. Mitchell, 1996); "Nineteenth Century English Picture Frames I: The Pre-Raphaelites" in The International Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship IV" (1985), "Nineteenth Century English Picture Frames II: The Victorian High Renaissance" in The International Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship V" (1986), "Victorian Frames" in In Perfect Harmony:Picture + Frame (ed. E. Mendgen, 1996); and with Paul Mitchell: "Notes on Turner's Picture Frames" Museum Management and Curatorship 17, no. 3 (1998), "Frames" in The Oxford Companion to Western Art (ed. H. Brigstocke, 2000); "Burne-Jones's Picture Frames," The Burlington Magazine (June 2000), "Notes on Turner's Picture Frames" in The Oxford Companion to J. M. W. Turner (ed. Joll, Butlin & Herrmann, 2001), and "Stubbs's frames" in George Stubbs, Painter: A Catalogue Raisonné, Judy Egerton (2007). Since 2003, she has contributed essays and reviews to the Frames section of the National Portrait Gallery website. She is researching Ford Madox Brown's frame designs for the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of his work by Mary Bennett.

Hunt Slonem, artist, born in Kittery, Maine; educated at Tulane and Skowhegan, is the son of a Navy Officer and thus had a peripatetic childhood which took him from Maine to California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Virginia, and Washington State; he later spent time in Nicaragua and Mexico. Since 1972, Slonem has lived in New York City. Devoted to the tradition of painting in oil on canvas, his distinctive imagery is drawn from passions for tropical birds and butterflies, saints and mystics, and various times past and cultures. Slonem often chooses lavish period frames for his works, giving them a precious, icon-like presentation. He has had more than 250 solo exhibitions in galleries and museums. His work is included in the collections of numerous museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Two exhibitions, one at the Tennessee State Museum, Nashville and the other at Colby College Museum of Art (both 1997) accompanied by a multi-author catalogue, provide an opportunity to assess the artist's work. Additional publications focusing on his art and its context are Hunt Slonem: An Art Rich and Strange (text by D. Kuspit, 2002) and Pleasure Palaces: The Art And Homes of Hunt Slonem by Vincent Katz (2007). He is represented internationally by the Marlborough Gallery.

Suzanne Smeaton, frame historian and gallery director, Eli Wilner & Company Period Frames, has been studying American frames and framing works of art for over 30 years. Through her work at the gallery, she has curated over 16 exhibitions dedicated to American frames, consulted with numerous private and public collections, and framed artworks for many institutions including The White House, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She is a frequent lecturer and author of numerous articles, among them contributions to The Gilded Edge: The Art of the Frame (2000), The Magazine ANTIQUES, and Picture Framing Magazine. Most recently, she contributed an essay on frames of the Ashcan painters to Life's Pleasures (2007), and collaborated with Lisa Koenigsberg on an essay on frames in the catalog for Auspicious Vision: Edwin Wales Root and American Modernism, an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Edwin Root Bequest to the Munson-Williams Proctor Art Institute.

Jonathan Thornton, professor, Art Conservation Department, State University College at Buffalo. Among his publications are Applied Decoration for Historic Interiors: Preserving Composition Ornament (with W. Adair, 1994) and contributions to The Conservation of Glass and Ceramics (1999), Gilded Metal (1998), Painted Wood (1998), Gilding and Surface Decoration (1991), Gilded Wood (1991), and to Fine Woodworking, Americana, and Studies in Conservation. Among his contributions to the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation are essays on gap-filling in the West, on architectural Papier Mâché, and on cyclododecane (with I. Bruckle, K. Nichols, and J. Strickler). He has written on 'Plastic' Compositions (compo), on ivory and ivory substitutes for American Institute for Conservation Preprints (1985, 1981), and on "The use of thin-layer chromatography in the identification of historic artificially colored varnishes and glazes" in Postprints of the AIC Objects Specialty Group (with J. Bischoff, and S. Nolley, 1996), and has contributed to a recent book, Conservation of Furniture (2003). He was an editorial board member, Art and Archaeology Technical Abstracts (1988-2000) and a board member of Heritage Preservation (formerly the National Institute for 1993-2000). He is a Fellow of both the International and American institutes for conservation, and of the American Academy in Rome.

Carol Troyen, Kristin and Roger Servison Curator Emerita of American Paintings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; her most recent exhibition, Edward Hopper, was seen at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Art Institute of Chicago, in 2007-2008. Among other recent projects and publications are essays on Charles Sheeler's View of New York (Art Bulletin, 2004), Marsden Hartley's late work (in Marsden Hartley, Wadsworth Atheneum, 2003); Thomas Eakins in the 20th century (in Thomas Eakins, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2001), as well as exhibitions on Sheeler, American watercolors, and American folk art in the MFA's collection. Among her current projects is an exhibition of American modernist works on paper from the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum.

Mark Tucker, head of paintings conservation, Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), joined the PMA staff in 1980, and since the mid-1980's has overseen technical study, preservation, and restoration of the museum's paintings, working closely with curators on research, treatment, exhibition, and catalog projects. From 1990-1995, he directed an intensive program of conservation study and treatment of European paintings for reinstallation of the galleries of pre-1900 European art. Having worked on paintings from the Museum's Thomas Eakins collection for its 1982 exhibition, in 1999 he returned to the artist's work, leading a program of research and treatments for the 2001-2002 retrospective. The research resulted in two exhibition catalog essays: one on the discovery of Eakins's use of projected photographs in creating paintings, and the other on ties between the shifting critical view of Eakins's achievement in the decades after his death and cleanings of paintings that altered them in ways that conflicted with the artist's own documented concerns with color and refinement. The Eakins project also assessed the reframing of paintings through the years, and in light of the findings, some surviving frames were restored, and lost frames on several key pictures accurately replicated.

Karen Zukowski, independent historian of late 19th-century American visual culture; she serves as instructor and thesis advisor, Cooper-Hewitt/Parsons Masters Program in the History of Decorative Arts, New York; she was previously curator, Olana State Historic Site,; Hudson, NY (1990-2000) where she co-authored a survey of the extant frames, dating from the 17th through the twentieth century; among her publications are: Creating the Artful Home: The Aesthetic Movement (2006); "Afterward: Olana After Frederic Church" (with D. Seamon) in Frederic Church's Olana: Architecture and Landscape as Art (2001); The Historic Furnishings Report for Olana State Historic Site: A History of the Interiors, Thoughts on Their Significance, and Recommendations for their Restoration (2001); and contributions to The Development of the Industrial United States (1870-1900) vol. 6 (A. Hoogenboom, ed., 2003), and to Conservation in Context: Finding a Balance for the Historic House Museum (W. C. Jessup, ed., Washington: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1995). She continues to write and speak on the subject of her dissertation, "Creating Art and Artists: Late Nineteenth-Century American Artists' Studios."