A supply of Californian redwood timber (Sequoia sempervirens) was found in 2006/7 in the form of a plank from the base of a wardrobe in a timber yard in Warnambool. This plank provided enough timber for four frame blanks. Two frames were made in preparation for the exhibition, Australian Impressionism, replacing two of the 1984/5 reproductions. These were for Charles Conder Sketch Portrait and Tom Roberts Across the Dandenongs.
Making these frames is quite a straight forward process. The window for the image (sight size) is marked out on the surface of the board, centred or off-set. A further set of points are located allowing the top edge of the bevel to be defined – these are characteristically 1½” from the sight edge. Holes are drilled and the centre cut out. A saw cut is made at the corners to locate the intersection of the sloping bevelled sides. The bevel is cut by hand with a sharp chisel being careful to retain around ¼” depth at the sight edge. The outer edge of the frame is relieved with a ¼” bevel.
The sight edge bevels of original frames are sometimes painted with ‘gold’ paint. Some original frames were stained dark, some stained black, some were elaborated with painted or applied detail, some were given bronze or copper painted finishes overall.
These flat plank, timber frames are sometimes thought to derive from Whistler models. The source of them is uncertain. Frames almost identical to these appear on the wall of Carlo Bugatti’s studio in a photograph thought to date from 1888-89. Stylistically they are likely to owe something to the frames used by Les XX in Belgium and the Vienna Secessionists. An interesting point of comparison are the frames used by Mortimer Menpes from 1887/88.