Unearthing a Trove of Nicholsons - I

English "Shooting" Print by William Nicholson, RA in Rustic-Carved Victorian Frame (LEO Design)


I've been collecting William Nicholson prints for nearly thirty years. When I closed the store in Greenwich Village (and moved to Pittsburgh), I brought with me a flat file full of "frameable orphans"—antique pictures waiting to be adopted, that is, placed in a suitable, "forever frame." These prints and paintings have been sitting (in the dark, in Pittsburgh) for the last six-and-a-half years, waiting for me to find them frames.  In truth, some of these pictures (including a number of Nicholsons) had been sitting in that flat file for an additional 20 years before the move.  What slows-me-down is finding the right, period-correct frame for each special print.

Although I collect antique frames, only a small percentage of my "private reserve" frame collection consists of frames large enough to accommodate the Nicholsons (after cutting-down and reassembling them, with new, acid-free matting). If those old frames already house an old picture, I face the conundrum of what to do with the antique print or painting.  Even if I don't like the image, it kills me to throw-away an antique picture.

I am also picky about the aesthetics of marrying frames and prints.  The frame should compliment—perhaps add something to—the artist's work.  They should look like they could have been together for 125 years.

Lastly, there's the cost.  I don't find good Victorian frames as frequently (or as affordably) as I once did.  When I started in this business, such frames were just approaching 100 years of age.  Nowadays, the same frames are pushing 130 years old.  I'm not afraid to invest in a good, costly antique frame.  But I also have to realize that every extra dollar I spend on the frames (or on the framer) needs to be added to the cost of the artwork.  The retail prices quickly add-up.  But I strive to "do it right," regardless of cost.

After many years in the dark, a handful of my stashed prints have been unearthed, brought into the light. I have selected just the right frame for each of them and I drove them to my trusted framer in Manhattan (8 hours, each way).  I've considered finding a framer 7.5 hours closer, but I've been using this framer for 25 years and I trust that he will do perfect work.  

Over three days, I will share some of my favorite selections with you.  They are currently available on-line at LEO Design.

The print above was published as part of a bound portfolio of 12 images called "An Almanac of Twelve Sports."  It was published in 1898 in London.  While the prints have the appearance of woodblock prints, they were actually printed with the (then) more-modern lithography—taken from the artist's original hand-tinted woodblock prints.  Sir William Nicholson, RA was an accomplished graphic artist—but also a very talented oil painter and watercolorist.  A career retrospective of Nicholson's works at the Royal Academy, a few years ago, was an eye-opener.  I would have loved to be given any of the pictures to hang in my house.

Nicholson captures the shooter's relaxed demeanor, enjoying the sporting life in the English countryside.  I've paired it with a Victorian (1880's-1890's) mahogany frame, carved to give it a rustic, "woodlands" style.  Over the decades, the original finish has "curdled" which gives it a sandy, aged texture.  Only time can provide this handsome patina.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com)

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248