Folk Art Frames
The earliest indigenous picture frame in America was the folk art frame,a simple pine molding, generally painted black, like the moldings used for framing doors and windows in colonial houses. Endless variations on this frame-type appear throughout the 19th C. Itinerant artists used them to frame portraits. They were made to surround theorems and calligraphy, samplers and silhouettes.
Folk artists used the same ochres, blues, reds and greens that we find today on 19th C. folk art furniture to embellish folk art frames. They employed stencil decorations or grain-painted faux finishes on the pine moldings to resemble exotic woods and other materials, like marble. Artisans joined the molding strips with a simple miter joint, or more elaborately, with a spline or lap-joint. Pictures hung on the wall from a brass ring. The hole from this ring, in the center of the top stick of molding, and the angular holes left in the rabbet by square-headed nails, are sure signs of a folk art frame's age and authenticity.
I use the term "folk art frame" to cover a variety of picture frame
styles, from the late 18th C. to the early 20th C.: tramp art
frames, constructed from many thin layers of wood, often from
cigar-boxes; marquetry frames, in which different kinds of wood are
inlaid to create elaborate patterns; and
Adirondack or Rustic style
frames, which integrate leaf and twig shapes into the moldings. Folk art
frames with applied corner blocks are called "Hick's style" frames, after
the painter Edward Hicks, famous for his "Peaceable Kingdom," who
frequently used this style of frame for his work.