Making the frame as interesting as the art: Pierre Legrain

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I saw this piece by Francis Picabia, titled “Midi (Promenade des Anglais)” at the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven. One of the things that grabbed my attention was the unusual frame; I have no idea what functional purpose – if any – the angled slats on the sides serve, but I wanted to try to learn more about it. What I learned was that the frame was not made by Picabia, but rather by Pierre Legrain, a French decorator, bookbinder, illustrator and cabinet maker … at least that’s the Wikipedia definition, it would seem he was a frame-maker and designer as well.

frame for a Picabia painting made by Pierre Legrain

Legrain made a number of frames for Picabia around this time – this one in particular is made out of snakeskin! Legrain also collaborated with AndrĂ© Masson, making the frame for his piece titled “Italian Postcard,” below left. I love this one, it’s like a cubist frame for a cubist painting – the sense of space and continuity is disrupted in both the art and the frame. The frame below right is also by Pierre Legrain, although what the original intended art work was is presently unknown. But it’s still pretty unusual in that it’s not really a “frame” in the traditional sense at all, it’s more of a wall mount, but with the decorative elements of the wood braces.

frames for art designed by Pierre Legrain

At any rate, Legrain looks like a pretty interesting designer in his other areas of expertise as well, we’ll have to pick this subject again soon and look at some of his other work.

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