‘Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection’ on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through February 16, 2015 contains masterworks by four artists who created the movement: Pablo Picasso (Spanish 1881-1973), Georges Braque (French 1882-1963), Fernand Leger (French 1881-1955), and Juan Gris (Spanish 1887-1927). Coming from Lauder’s personal collection the artworks are sensitively framed and provide opportunities to see what forms of frames are found on such artworks.
The most prevalent design is the cassetta frame, executed in many variations. The cassetta profile emerged from 15th Century Venice and has a wide, flat panel with raised inner and outer edges (hence the term cassetta or ‘little box’). The cassetta frames are most often black and frequently utilize delicate gold designs confined to the corners and/or midpoints of the frame; their angularity and restraint are an excellent choice for the refracted compositions. Similarly, a gold step frame on Braque’s Bottle of Rum has softened edges of each step and recedes into the composition, heightening the sense of perspective. Black, as a surface in general, is a sophisticated and dramatic choice for such modern artworks and heightens the expressive brushwork and palette. On Leger’s Sketch for Acrobats In the Circus a matte black surface echoes and supports the matte surface of the canvas.
Carved Spanish designs in black and gold speak to Picasso’s roots and his fondness for 17th Century frames; on his Head of a Woman - Study for Nude With Drapery the robust carving and interplay of black and gold surfaces underscores the drama and boldness of the image.
In contrast, a pale delicate work by Leger, Drawing for The Card Players, contains both angles and soft rounded shapes. It is sympathetically framed with a similarly curved reverse ogee frame finished in a light, understated gold that does not overwhelm and complements the warmer tonalities of the drawing.
On the whole the frames in the exhibition are excellent choices in terms of both historical precedent and sympathetic designs that support and enhance the Cubist compositions - it is a rare chance to see a coherently framed collection.