Albert Bierstadt | Rockwell Museum of Western Art

Bierstadt’s “Mount Whitney” Receives a New Frame at the Rockwell Museum of Western Art

Chelsea DeLay | October 2nd, 2013 | Posted in News

Albert Bierstadt’s Mount Whitney recently received a monumental makeover that has dramatically enhanced the painting’s appearance: a new 500 pound frame! The importance of framing is a concept that expands beyond simply surrounding a painting—a frame not only enhances the beauty of the work of art, but is also designed to maintain the support of the painting itself.  Keeping this in mind, the curatorial staff at the Rockwell  Museum of Western Art examined the frame on Bierstadt’s monumental Mount Whitney, ca. 1877,  and found that it seemed to be displaying signs of deterioration that were distracting from the overall magnificence of the painting. Not only had the gilding lost its luster, but a closer inspection of the frame revealed that it was not original to the painting—Mount Whitney was a nineteenth-century American landscape painting, but was framed in a reproduction French 1850s-style frame that had been expanded to accommodate the massive work! A frame in poor condition can pose potentially irreversible dangers to a work of art, and in the case of Mount Whitney, these threats became more pronounced because the frame was not original to Bierstadt’s masterpiece.

Albert Bierstadt, Mt Whitney, oil painting, Rockwell Museum of Western Art

Installing Albert Bierstadt’s Mt. Whitney in its new frame at the Rockwell Museum of Western Art.

It was decided that the best preventative measure to take was to commission a replica of a period American frame that would properly preserve and showcase Mount Whitney. The Manhattan-based framing company Gill and Lagodich designed the new frame, which weighs a whopping 500 pounds and measures eight feet high by twelve feet wide.  But don’t let the size of this behemoth distract from the fact that it was built to appear as if it were created in the 1870s.   Eleven months were spent researching the design and ornamentation of nineteenth-century frames, and the final product is covered in approximately 200-square-feet of 23-karat gold leaf.  Upon completion, the impressive piece was hoisted up three stories into the Rockwell Museum galleries, and took no less than six people to be properly installed on the wall.

Bierstadt’s Mount Whitney now hangs in all of its period-specific glory, and its newfound beauty emphasizes a growing trend among art museums; curators are increasingly studying the frames that house their most critically acclaimed works. When a painting and its frame are carefully paired, they create a truly stunning piece.  This is the case with Bierstadt’s newly-framed mountain scene, which will undoubtedly impress visitors with its grand view of Mount Whitney for many years to come!

Albert Bierstadt, Mt Whitney, oil painting, Rockwell Museum of American Art

Photo credit: Albert Bierstadt, Mount Whitney, ca. 1877, oil on canvas, 68⅞ x 116⅝ inches. Rockwell Foundation purchase. 78.14. Used with Permission, Rockwell Museum of Western Art, Corning NY

Chelsea DeLay is a Researcher at Questroyal Fine Art. Chelsea earned her MA in art business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York, and her BA in art history and classical studies. Her interest in American paintings first began while working at an auction house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and has multiplied exponentially since joining the Questroyal team.