NEW YORK, NY.-
Founded in 1983, Eli Wilner & Company
is celebrating 25 years in business. The gallery, indeed the study, connoisseurship and collecting of American frames, have come a long way from the early days when the business began in a fifth floor walk up and period frames were still being discarded by museums and galleries alike. Since that time, Eli Wilner & Company has worked to promote the study and appreciation of period frames as valuable historical objects as well as works of art in their own right. Gradually frames have risen to the forefront of interest in the art world and museum curators and private collectors alike are far more aware than ever before of the transforming influence that a frame provides to an artwork. The company has grown from a modest operation to an upper Eastside Manhattan gallery that employs 30 highly skilled workers and operates its own 11,000 square foot frame restoration studio.
The gallery is especially proud of their work in historically appropriate framing. In 1991 the gallery replicated frames for three monumental landscapes by Thomas Moran on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Based on period photographs, Eli Wilner & Company faithfully recreated the elaborate gilded frames, each nearly 8' X 12". Known for their expertise regarding historically appropriate frame styles, Eli Wilner & Company has completed 28 projects for the White House. Other noteworthy museum projects include the reframing of Madame X by John Singer Sargent at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Morning Bell by Winslow Homer at the Yale University Art Gallery, Madame Paul Poirson by John Singer Sargent at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the record-breaking Picasso Dora Maar that sold at Sotheby's in May 2006 for $95 million dollars. In total, over 10,000 paintings have been reframed by Eli Wilner & Company, the majority for public institutions. The company is currently working on a frame for Emanuel Leutze's Washington Crossing the Delaware at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; based on a period photo from 1851 when the painting was first on view in America, the monumental 15' X 24' frame is surmounted by a 12' crest with a carved wooden eagle, flags, cannons and other regalia.
Recent initiatives by Eli Wilner & Company include the full and partial gifting of historically appropriate replica frames for the New-York Historical Society, the National Academy Museum, and the New Britain Museum of Art. Two large Gothic-style mirror frames were replicated for the Lyndhurst historic site to restore the reading room to the original state. Many special exhibitions have been supported by the loan of frames: an exhibition on the Ash Can painters organized by the Detroit Institute of Art, an exhibition on Christopher Pearse Cranch at the Lyman Allyn Museum, and an exhibition on Piranesi at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. Other support includes funding to finance the photography that accompanies the chapter on frames in the exhibition catalog for Cecelia Beaux- American Figure Painter, financial support to a graduate student writing a thesis on frames, funding to Initiatives in Art & Culture for a conference on frames, the creation of a didactic frame for the Lunder Conservation Center at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the donation of framing to benefit The Olana Partnership.
The New York Times and over 100 other newspapers and magazines have written regarding the ascendancy of the frame in the art world and in 2004 the first ever exhibition of a single-owner collection of American frames opened in a Florida museum. In a Wall Street Journal review of the exhibition it was noted that the "
collection reveals the American period frame as a decorative object rich in history and worthy of contemplation."
Eli Wilner & Company is responsible for many frame exhibitions, symposia and lectures and publications. In 1988 they mounted the ground-breaking exhibition 'The Art of the Frame' and published an accompanying catalog profiling American framemakers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since the 1988 exhibition Eli Wilner & Company has offered or participated in nearly two dozen frame exhibitions at museums such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Parrish Art Museum, the National Academy Museum, and institutions such as the National Arts Club. The company has also offered frame symposia at the Phillips Collection and the Equitable. For the past two decades the company has continually worked with both Christie's and Sotheby's auction houses loaning appropriate frames for artwork offered for sale.
In addition to their initial publication of The Art of the Frame in 1988 the company published The Gilded Edge with Chronicle Books in 2001 and Wilner gallery director Suzanne Smeaton has written many articles, most recently contributing essays on frames to Life's Pleasures: The Ashcan Artists' Brush with Leisure (Detroit Institute of Arts 2007) and Auspicious Vision: Edward Wales Root and American Modernism (Munson-Williams Proctor Arts Institute, 2008).
Emblematic of this rise in frame scholarship New York University and Initiatives in Art & Culture have held five conferences devoted exclusively to the frame. Increasingly, exhibition catalogs now include chapters that discuss the frames used by artists. Three such frame essays appear in the catalogs for The Art of Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1996, essay by Susan Hobbs), Childe Hassam American Impressionist (2006, essay by Susan Larkin) and Cecelia Beaux, American Figure Painter (2007, essay by Mark Bockrath).
It is truly gratifying to reflect on the past quarter century of Eli Wilner & Company's unceasing commitment to period frames to witness the now vibrant and dynamic study of frames and the ever-growing care with which artworks are framed for view both public and private.