Turner’s ground-breaking use of watercolour culminated in the 1840s in a series of transcendent views of Swiss lakes and mountains. Among the most famous of these are three views of Mt Rigi, seen from Lake Lucerne, that show the mountain at different times of day. Here Turner captured fleeting colour changes on Mt Rigi’s slopes, recording the altering moods of the scene under different lighting conditions – in The Red Rigi the mountain is illuminated by the warm glow of the setting sun. These works unite the artist’s close observation of nature with his elaborate technique to evoke an atmosphere of utter tranquillity and contemplative calm.
The reframing of two Turner watercolours in the collection was initially undertaken in preparation for the exhibition: J.M.W.Turner. National Gallery of Australian, 1996.
The Red Rigi (1704-4), acquired by the Felton Bequest in 1947, is dated to 1842. There is currently no record of how the painting was presented at the time of acquisition. For most of it’s life in the collection of the NGV the watercolour was presented in a standard frame with standard museum mounting. Through the 1980’s and 90’s this amounted to a cream museum window mount and an ‘L’ section timber frame made from blackwood.
The first re-framing of the work took account of references to these watercolours being displayed in close fitting gilded frames.
Particular attention was paid to a watercolour painting of the library of B.G. Wyndus in which a collection of Turner watercolours, including Okehampton, Devonshire in the NGV collection is displayed.
Cobus van Breda wrote on the subject of Turner and his framing choices making reference to both extant documentation and Turners views on perspective and the way these might be interpolated into framing decisions. (Melbourne Journal of Technical Studies in Art: volume 1, FRAMES pp137-146., 1999).
Unlike Okehampton, Devonshire there is no visual reference for the early presentation of The Red Rigi.
A Neo-classical frame for The Red Rigi was designed and constructed in Melbourne in 1996. It was based on information from Tate Gallery, particularly the frames depicted on Turner’s pictures in Fawkes’ collection and the frame on the anonymous painting of Audley End, Essex.
Over subsequent years this frame was deemed to be of limited success.
The watercolour was presented in a cream mount and thin gold frame for loan in 2000.
The project was re-visited in 2010/11 with a view to refining the presentation of the painting for the exhibition of British Watercolours at the NGV in September 2011.
Many views were sought and expressed about the presentation of the watercolour. Reference was made to the reframing of AGSA’s Alnwich Castle.
Various options were provided as photomontages. After considerable discussion a new frame was commissioned from London, based on an original deep scotia classical frame.
The invoice describes the frame:
“supplying hand carved and water gilded replica of antique English late 18/early 19thC deep scotia Neoclassical frame with frieze; applied leaf-tip moulding adjacent to sight; corner-&-centre ribbons binding fasces moulding; gilded slips to match.”
The frame is a scaled down version of an antique frame bearing the label of the carver and gilder Archer of High Street, Oxford. Archer’s apprentice was James Wyatt, and it was Wyatt who commissioned a painting from Turner in 1810 of High Street, Oxford. The Ashmolean Museum used the Archer frame to reframe the Oxford Street watercolour now in that collection.
The frame was fitted to the painting in September 2011.
carved timber, composition and gold leaf