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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Making art is filled with mystery. The arcane and complicated processes used to make prints, the imagination that leads to the work, and the centuries of history in the buying and selling of art are filled with mystery. But buying art should not by mysterious. This page aims to answer some of common questions that art buyers have.

Do you have a question not answered here? Please let us know!

Types of Prints

Etchings and engravings are both methods of creating art with the use of a plate in a printing press.  And in both, the plate has grooves that hold the ink.

The difference is in the making of those grooves.

In an etching, the artist typically scratches through a coating applied to the face of the plate.  Acid is then applied to the plate.  The oil-based coating resists the water-based acid wash.  The areas of the plate that are exposed by the artist’s scratches get etched by the acid.  In an engraving, though, the artist puts the scratches, grooves, and gouges directly in the plate.

An additional difference is the visual impact of these two methods.  The direct engraving of the plate allows the artist to vary the depth and weight of the cut such that the resultant image is substantially three-dimensional.

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Manière noire is a print-making technique in which the plate is directly scratched with a wire brush or other device or by ruling closely-set parallel lines in several directions on the ground before etching.  Its purpose and effect is to produce an overall texture.

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Everyone’s heard of oil paints and acrylics—but what is “gouache”?

Gouache (which is pronounced /gwash/) is a paint made by dissolving ground pigments in water and then thickened with a glue-like substance (usually gum arabic or yellow dextrin).  It is applied like oils and acrylics but like watercolors it tends to be absorbed into the paper on which it is painted.  Unlike watercolors, it can also be applied to make bold, flat, and completely opaque colors.  Gouache has been used for well over 1000 years, but it became popular for commercial artists in the 20th century because it photographed well and could be used to make crisp images and lettering (particularly when mixed with an acrylic binder instead of gum arabic).  The term is French, derived from the Italian word “guazzo”.

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An etching is a print in which the image on paper is created by pressing an etched plate against the paper.

The plate is etched through a complex multistep process.  The short explanation of the process is as follows:  First, the artist coats a metal plate with an oil-based material.  This coating is called the “ground”.  Next, the artist scratches the ground to create the image that he or she desires.  Finally, the artist washes the work with acid.  The water-based acid beads up on the coating because oil and water don’t mix, leaving the acid to etch the plate where the coating has been removed by the artist.  The ground is removed from the plate and the plate can then be used with a press to create the picture.

In some cases, the acid is applied directly to the plate without any application of a coating using methods such as open bite, brush bite, and spit bite.

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An engraving is a method of printmaking in which a sharp steel tool called a burin is used to cut slivers out of a metal plate (usually copper) to create an image.  The plate will be inked and then the ink will be wiped off of the plate but left in the grooves.  A damp piece of paper is laid over the inked plate and a press squeezes the paper hard onto the plate, pressing the paper fibers into the grooves.  This both creates an image on the paper and also embosses the paper.  Engravings typically have a very pronounced three-dimensionality to them.

Some artists, like Bernard Childs, make deep cuts into the plate, with the result being deep wells of ink and a very significant shaping of the paper.  Childs was interesting for another reason:  Like many artists, Childs was a curious person, an innovator.  He came up with the idea of cutting into the plate using power tools.  He used those tools with great success—but also with great noise.  In fact, his widow, Judith Childs, told me that when she met Stanley Hayter in the 1970s, he immediately recognized her name and cursed at the noisiness of the machines that Bernard used when Bernard spent time in Hayter’s Atelier 17!

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Aquatint is a method of achieving gradations of tone through a very fine network of lines or dots on the plate.  However, the lines and dots in the aquatint are formed through a different technique than is used with an etching, in which the image is formed by scratching through the ground.

The artist making an aquatint forms the image through the application of the ground itself, instead of applying a ground over the entire plate and removing the portions that are to be acid-etched.

To start, the artist selects a material for the ground which is capable of being reduced to fine particles, of being well-fixed to the polished-copper plate, and of resisting acid.  The most commonly used grounds for aquatint have been resin (such as from pine trees) and asphalt.  The artist scatters this material on portions of the plate as a ground-up dust and then heats it, causing the material to melt and stick to the plate.  Alternatively, the material might be dissolved in alcohol and poured onto the plate, whereupon the alcohol evaporates, leaving behind the dissolved ground, but typically with a pattern of cracks like dried mud on a floor.  In either case, the ground which remains adhered to the plate leaves a pattern of dots and cracks.  It is in those areas, where the acid will etch the exposed plate, creating the etching which will then be inked and pressed on the paper.

Aquatint got its name because it was developed in the last quarter of the Eighteenth Century, when watercolors were enormously popular, because this technique allowed the etcher to imitate the effect of a watercolor wash.

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A woodcut is a print made by cutting an image into a board. (Technically, a “woodcut” is a print made by cutting the image into the face of the board and is different from a “wood engraving“, in which the image is cut into the endgrain of the wood, though often people refer to all prints made by cutting into wood as a “woodcut”.) Woodcut is one of the earliest forms of print-making, used in China as early as the Fifth Century CE. Albrecht Dürer was one of the most famous printmakers who used woodcut, working at at a time that is often thought of as the pinnacle of woodcut work.

Traditionally, woodcut was made using fine-grain woods, which allowed the artist the freedom to guide the cutting. In the Twentieth Century, artists like Edvard Munch and Paul Gauguin began experimenting, using coarse-grained woods and softwoods (with prominent wide-spaced grains that would guide the cutting tool).

Leonard Baskin is one of the greatest of the modern woodcut artists, creating works of enormous expressiveness.

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A wood engraving is a print made by cutting an image into the end grain of a piece of wood.  It is different from a “woodcut“, in which the image is cut into the face of the board, though often people refer to all prints made by cutting into wood as a “woodcut”.

To make the print on the paper, the artist applies ink to the face of the block of wood and presses the paper onto the inked wood.  The area that was cut away leaves no ink on the paper.

Woodcut is one of the earliest forms of print-making, used in China as early as the Fifth Century CE.  Wood engraving is generally thought to have been invented only in the late Eighteenth Century, commonly attributed to Thomas Bewick.

Some important wood engravers include Honoré Daumier, Leonard Baskin, M.C. Escher, Barbara Howard, Howard Pyle, and Rockwell Kent.

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A silkscreen is a type of print which is made through the use of a mesh cloth stretched over a heavy wooden frame.  The cloth is highly permeable, but the artist applies paint, tusche, glue, or other material to block paint from passing through areas of the cloth.  The artist then uses a squeegee to press paint through the cloth (except, of course, where the resist was applied), creating an image on the paper.  Silkscreen artists usually repeat the process with additional screens, using other colors, to build an intricate and colorful image.

Clayton Pond was a mid-century New York artist who invented new ways of silkscreening which yielded uniquely vibrant and lustrous pictures.

Category: Types of Prints

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Category: Types of Prints

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Photogravure is an intaglio printmaking process in which a copper plate coated with a light-sensitive gelatin tissue is exposed to light which is shined through a film negative (just as is done in the printing of a photograph); the plate is then washed with acid—the acid etches the copper where and to the extent that the light impacted the gelatin. It reproduces very well the deep and continuous pools of gray and black in the photograph.

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Category: Types of Prints

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Category: Types of Prints

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A collotype is a type of print in which a glass or metal plate is covered with a light-sensitive substance.  The substance is exposed to an image on a negative, much like a photograph, which modifies the substance on the plate and, in turn, creates the image.  The image would vary in hardness according to the amount of light that reached it through the negative.  The softer areas accepted more ink.  Collotypes were first employed for fine art photographs in the United States by Alfred Stieglitz.

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Softground etching is a form of etching in which tallow is added to the ground before it is spread on the plate.  The tallow prevents the ground from fully hardening.  A sheet of paper is laid over the ground.  The artist then draws on the paper and then lifts it up.  When the artist drew, the ground adheres to the paper and is pulled off the plate.  Unlike the lines created in the typical scratching away at the ground, the lines created with a softground etching are rough because the ground is not pulled away cleanly.  It leaves a crayon-like edge.

Artists using softground etching can vary the amount of pressure that they apply to the paper, affecting how much of the ground is removed, as well as the width of the pencil with which the image is drawn.

In the Twentieth Century, softground etching found a renaissance as artists realized that found objects, like leaves, could be pressed into the ground.

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Intaglio is a type of printing in which cuts are made into a metal plate.  The word “Intaglio” means “incising” in Italian.

Intaglio printing, which emerged in the 1500s, was a major development in print-making.  Before then, prints were generally made by relief cuts.  In other words, material would be removed from the plate and the areas of the plate which were left remaining would be inked and pressed on the paper.  The result is generally an even coating of paint on the paper.  With intaglio printing, however, variations in the depth and width of the cut allows the artist to control the amount of ink deposited on the paper, creating far more expressive works.

Intaglios are distinguished by their three-dimensionality.  The pressure of the printing press pushing the paper onto the plate causes the ink to be raised up from the surface of the paper.

Intaglio prints can be made by etching or engraving the plate.

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Printmaking Terms

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Etchings and engravings are both methods of creating art with the use of a plate in a printing press.  And in both, the plate has grooves that hold the ink.

The difference is in the making of those grooves.

In an etching, the artist typically scratches through a coating applied to the face of the plate.  Acid is then applied to the plate.  The oil-based coating resists the water-based acid wash.  The areas of the plate that are exposed by the artist’s scratches get etched by the acid.  In an engraving, though, the artist puts the scratches, grooves, and gouges directly in the plate.

An additional difference is the visual impact of these two methods.  The direct engraving of the plate allows the artist to vary the depth and weight of the cut such that the resultant image is substantially three-dimensional.

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Social realism is the term used for work produced by artist who aim to draw attention to the real socio-political conditions of the working class as a means to critique the power structures behind these conditions.  In particular, it refers to the interwar-period art movement that blossomed as a reaction to the terrible lives suffered by ordinary people during and after the Great Depression.

Consistent with the catholic nature of the work, this work typically reflected realistic portrayals of ordinary workers as well as legendary people—real and not—who were heroic symbols of strength in the face of adversity.  The goal of the social realists was to expose the worsening plight of the poor and working classes and hold the government and broader social systems accountable.

Some of the key figures in social realism were Philip Evergood, William Gropper, Ben Shan, Thomas Hart Benton, Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, John Steuart Curry, Georges Rouault, Grant Wood, and Paul Cadmus, and, in Mexico, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Mexico.

Leonard Baskin, considered by some to be a social realist artist (though he was not working in the interwar heyday of the movement) was famously critical of the abstract work that dominated the post-war period.  He considered that work to lack courage and to fail to meet the basic duty of art.

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Manière noire is a print-making technique in which the plate is directly scratched with a wire brush or other device or by ruling closely-set parallel lines in several directions on the ground before etching.  Its purpose and effect is to produce an overall texture.

Leave a Reply

Héliogravure is a form of intaglio printing.  Like etchings and engravings, the print starts with a plate, and, like etchings and engravings, héliogravure plates are typically copper.  Unlike etchings and engravings, the image on a héliogravure plate is not mechanically created.  Instead, it is created with a photochemical process.

To prepare the plate for the photochemical process, it is dusted with rosin powder.  (Rosin is the solidified resin obtained from pine trees.)  The plate is then heated so that the grains of rosin melt into fine droplets and fuse to the copper plate.  The rosin dust particles are microscopic in size.  Therefore, when they melt, they create an extraordinarily fine grid, leaving miniscule gaps for the acid to pass through to the plate.  The result:  An exceptional tonal range, with precise transitions from light to dark and the ability to obtain nuanced changes in color and texture.

Like etchings and engravings, the héliogravure plate is then placed on a press and printed onto dampened etching paper using special inks.

How do you know when a print is a héliogravure?  Examine the print under a magnifying glass.  Unlike offset prints, rotogravure, and even letterpress, you will see no screen pattern in the image.

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Everyone’s heard of oil paints and acrylics—but what is “gouache”?

Gouache (which is pronounced /gwash/) is a paint made by dissolving ground pigments in water and then thickened with a glue-like substance (usually gum arabic or yellow dextrin).  It is applied like oils and acrylics but like watercolors it tends to be absorbed into the paper on which it is painted.  Unlike watercolors, it can also be applied to make bold, flat, and completely opaque colors.  Gouache has been used for well over 1000 years, but it became popular for commercial artists in the 20th century because it photographed well and could be used to make crisp images and lettering (particularly when mixed with an acrylic binder instead of gum arabic).  The term is French, derived from the Italian word “guazzo”.

Leave a Reply

An etching is a print in which the image on paper is created by pressing an etched plate against the paper.

The plate is etched through a complex multistep process.  The short explanation of the process is as follows:  First, the artist coats a metal plate with an oil-based material.  This coating is called the “ground”.  Next, the artist scratches the ground to create the image that he or she desires.  Finally, the artist washes the work with acid.  The water-based acid beads up on the coating because oil and water don’t mix, leaving the acid to etch the plate where the coating has been removed by the artist.  The ground is removed from the plate and the plate can then be used with a press to create the picture.

In some cases, the acid is applied directly to the plate without any application of a coating using methods such as open bite, brush bite, and spit bite.

Leave a Reply

An engraving is a method of printmaking in which a sharp steel tool called a burin is used to cut slivers out of a metal plate (usually copper) to create an image.  The plate will be inked and then the ink will be wiped off of the plate but left in the grooves.  A damp piece of paper is laid over the inked plate and a press squeezes the paper hard onto the plate, pressing the paper fibers into the grooves.  This both creates an image on the paper and also embosses the paper.  Engravings typically have a very pronounced three-dimensionality to them.

Some artists, like Bernard Childs, make deep cuts into the plate, with the result being deep wells of ink and a very significant shaping of the paper.  Childs was interesting for another reason:  Like many artists, Childs was a curious person, an innovator.  He came up with the idea of cutting into the plate using power tools.  He used those tools with great success—but also with great noise.  In fact, his widow, Judith Childs, told me that when she met Stanley Hayter in the 1970s, he immediately recognized her name and cursed at the noisiness of the machines that Bernard used when Bernard spent time in Hayter’s Atelier 17!

Leave a Reply

Aquatint is a method of achieving gradations of tone through a very fine network of lines or dots on the plate.  However, the lines and dots in the aquatint are formed through a different technique than is used with an etching, in which the image is formed by scratching through the ground.

The artist making an aquatint forms the image through the application of the ground itself, instead of applying a ground over the entire plate and removing the portions that are to be acid-etched.

To start, the artist selects a material for the ground which is capable of being reduced to fine particles, of being well-fixed to the polished-copper plate, and of resisting acid.  The most commonly used grounds for aquatint have been resin (such as from pine trees) and asphalt.  The artist scatters this material on portions of the plate as a ground-up dust and then heats it, causing the material to melt and stick to the plate.  Alternatively, the material might be dissolved in alcohol and poured onto the plate, whereupon the alcohol evaporates, leaving behind the dissolved ground, but typically with a pattern of cracks like dried mud on a floor.  In either case, the ground which remains adhered to the plate leaves a pattern of dots and cracks.  It is in those areas, where the acid will etch the exposed plate, creating the etching which will then be inked and pressed on the paper.

Aquatint got its name because it was developed in the last quarter of the Eighteenth Century, when watercolors were enormously popular, because this technique allowed the etcher to imitate the effect of a watercolor wash.

Leave a Reply

A woodcut is a print made by cutting an image into a board. (Technically, a “woodcut” is a print made by cutting the image into the face of the board and is different from a “wood engraving“, in which the image is cut into the endgrain of the wood, though often people refer to all prints made by cutting into wood as a “woodcut”.) Woodcut is one of the earliest forms of print-making, used in China as early as the Fifth Century CE. Albrecht Dürer was one of the most famous printmakers who used woodcut, working at at a time that is often thought of as the pinnacle of woodcut work.

Traditionally, woodcut was made using fine-grain woods, which allowed the artist the freedom to guide the cutting. In the Twentieth Century, artists like Edvard Munch and Paul Gauguin began experimenting, using coarse-grained woods and softwoods (with prominent wide-spaced grains that would guide the cutting tool).

Leonard Baskin is one of the greatest of the modern woodcut artists, creating works of enormous expressiveness.

Leave a Reply

A wood engraving is a print made by cutting an image into the end grain of a piece of wood.  It is different from a “woodcut“, in which the image is cut into the face of the board, though often people refer to all prints made by cutting into wood as a “woodcut”.

To make the print on the paper, the artist applies ink to the face of the block of wood and presses the paper onto the inked wood.  The area that was cut away leaves no ink on the paper.

Woodcut is one of the earliest forms of print-making, used in China as early as the Fifth Century CE.  Wood engraving is generally thought to have been invented only in the late Eighteenth Century, commonly attributed to Thomas Bewick.

Some important wood engravers include Honoré Daumier, Leonard Baskin, M.C. Escher, Barbara Howard, Howard Pyle, and Rockwell Kent.

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A scraper is a steel tool used to scrape away material from the surface of a printing plate, as well as for correcting mistakes.  Scrapers are used for both etchings and engravings.  Other often-used etching and engraving tools include burins, roulettes, and burnishers.

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A roulette is a steel tool with a revolving toothed wheel used for creating patterns, backgrounds, patterned lines, and the like.  Roulettes are used in making both etchings and engravings.  Other often-used etching and engraving tools include burins, burnishers, and scrapers.

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A portfolio is a collection of fine art prints produced as a cohesive set by the artist, printer, or publisher.

A portfolio might be simply a large set of the artist’s work or it might be a careful selection of a few of the artist’s best works.  In most cases, though, the portfolio has a stronger unifying theme.

For example, Lowell Nesbitt’s “Iris Tulip Lily” portfolio printed in 1980 contains silkscreens of three of the flowers—obviously, the Iris, Tulip, and Lily—that were in Nesbitt’s celebrated 1977 large-scale painting “Seven Electric Flowers”.

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Photogravure is an intaglio printmaking process in which a copper plate coated with a light-sensitive gelatin tissue is exposed to light which is shined through a film negative (just as is done in the printing of a photograph); the plate is then washed with acid—the acid etches the copper where and to the extent that the light impacted the gelatin. It reproduces very well the deep and continuous pools of gray and black in the photograph.

Leave a Reply

A collotype is a type of print in which a glass or metal plate is covered with a light-sensitive substance.  The substance is exposed to an image on a negative, much like a photograph, which modifies the substance on the plate and, in turn, creates the image.  The image would vary in hardness according to the amount of light that reached it through the negative.  The softer areas accepted more ink.  Collotypes were first employed for fine art photographs in the United States by Alfred Stieglitz.

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A burnisher is a steel tool used for flattening burrs and polishing the plate surface, as well as for making corrections.  Burnishers are used in making both etchings and engravings.  Other often-used etching and engraving tools include burins, roulettes, and scrapers.

Leave a Reply

A burin is a steel tool used to incise cuts into a printing plate.  It is used when making an engraving.  Other engraving tools include scrapers, roulettes, and burnishers.

Leave a Reply

Softground etching is a form of etching in which tallow is added to the ground before it is spread on the plate.  The tallow prevents the ground from fully hardening.  A sheet of paper is laid over the ground.  The artist then draws on the paper and then lifts it up.  When the artist drew, the ground adheres to the paper and is pulled off the plate.  Unlike the lines created in the typical scratching away at the ground, the lines created with a softground etching are rough because the ground is not pulled away cleanly.  It leaves a crayon-like edge.

Artists using softground etching can vary the amount of pressure that they apply to the paper, affecting how much of the ground is removed, as well as the width of the pencil with which the image is drawn.

In the Twentieth Century, softground etching found a renaissance as artists realized that found objects, like leaves, could be pressed into the ground.

Leave a Reply

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Intaglio is a type of printing in which cuts are made into a metal plate.  The word “Intaglio” means “incising” in Italian.

Intaglio printing, which emerged in the 1500s, was a major development in print-making.  Before then, prints were generally made by relief cuts.  In other words, material would be removed from the plate and the areas of the plate which were left remaining would be inked and pressed on the paper.  The result is generally an even coating of paint on the paper.  With intaglio printing, however, variations in the depth and width of the cut allows the artist to control the amount of ink deposited on the paper, creating far more expressive works.

Intaglios are distinguished by their three-dimensionality.  The pressure of the printing press pushing the paper onto the plate causes the ink to be raised up from the surface of the paper.

Intaglio prints can be made by etching or engraving the plate.

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Framing

Category: Framing

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Category: Framing

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We are serious about frames. 

Frames serve two key functions. First, most obviously, a picture’s frame distinguishes the art from the not-art and draws the viewer’s attention to the art and shapes how the viewer sees the art.

The more important purpose of the frame is to protect the art.  Just as walls get bumped and bashed, so too art gets bumped and bashed. Equally damaging are environmental harms. UV rays fade the image and darken the paper. Pollutants and moisture in the air cause hazing, degradation of the medium, and foxing and other damage to the paper. And the framing itself can cause damage: Acid in the matboard and in the art’s substrate, for example, will burn the paper over time.

Our frames protect your artwork.

When purchasing art from us, in virtually every case your art will be protected by UV-filtering glazing. We use UV-filtering glass specially-made for fine art or, to protect against breakage for larger works, UV-Filtering Plexiglass. The filtering blocks 99% of UV-rays.

Our mats are always acid-free, as are our backer boards. We primarily use 100% cotton rag matboard, with buffering materials to counteract against acid that may be found in the work. We seal the backs of the frames (either with acid-free framer’s tape or an acid-free dust panel) to keep pollutants away from the art.

In short, when we frame the work, we protect against Ultraviolet light that burns and fades the work, we seal the frame package against environmental pollutants, and everything inside the frame is acid-free to avoid the acid burn that afflicts so much art.

Our frames suit your artwork.

Real art deserves real framing.  A smart picture on the wall shouldn’t be dumbed down with a cheap frame.  A self-important frame is just as bad. And don’t even think about using an over-the-top frame. The frame should be a thing of beauty but it’s beauty should derive from and resonate with the art. It should never be more than the art.

Whenever suitable to the work, our frames will be solid hardwood, typically of a simple, unfussy design. We usually use a simple waxed finish for good protection with ease of long-term care. We also frequently use metal frames of the highest quality when it better suits the work. And whenever we have the opportunity to reframe a work in its period or artist-installed frame, we do so.

The hanging wire we use on the back of the picture is coated with a rubberized coating to avoid degradation of the wire over time and to make a more secure hanging. We generally aim for the top of the wire to be about two inches from the top of the picture to make it easier to position your hook.

If you are trying to carefully align the artwork horizontally with other works of art, which might require very careful vertical alignment, please let us know. We will happily install a turnbuckle in the wire, which will allow you to make small adjustments in the length of the wire, and thereby tweak the height of the picture, without damaging your wall with multiple holes.

Category: Framing

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Category: Framing

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