Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Fine and Decorative Art and Design

First Advisor

Ann-Marie Richard

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Pergam


By considering the multiple aspects of a picture frame, this thesis paper explores the relationship between the frame and the painting it surrounds. Functioning to both preserve and present a painting, the frame is often a concern of curators, dealers, restorers and institutions. Though neglected, the painters themselves had opinions about the framing of their work. This research centers on the classification of a picture frame as either fine or decorative art. First, the metaphysical and marketing ramifications of the frame will be considered, followed by a concise history of the frame that will focus on the nineteenth century Impressionist painters. Further, specific artists and the frames they preferred will be analyzed, including James McNeill Whistler, Georges Seurat, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Piet Mondrian, Robert Ryman and others. Quotes from contemporary interviews with prominent figures in the field are included throughout, leading to a discussion about the possibilities of restoration and the responsibilities of museums in relation to public presentation and education. Although it seems that frames are largely considered decorative, this exploration shows that there is potential for further appreciation and analysis of frames as fine art.