Art: Returning to the Frame Game

Painters garnish the edge with daubs, cutouts, even cutlery

"The Louvre at first was only gold frames to me," Gertrude Stein once wrote. "In a way it destroyed paintings for me." By the early 20th century, artists and enlightened collectors were already beginning to do away with old-fashioned picture frames, with their gilded inlets and adamant pirouettes. Let painting be painting, they decided, without a competing spectacle at its own borders. This preference soon converged with Bauhaus notions of design, which enforced the modernist distaste for frills. By midcentury, the opponents of effusive...

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