Recently I learned of a set of watercolors of nests and eggs, painted by an artist living in the south of England in the 1850s. After a little work on my part, the folio of twelve arrived in my box at the Bronxville Post Office. I was excited to find that the colors were as bright as described – the watercolors had been kept in a folio since the day they were painted.
Each sheet measures about 11″ by 15″ and depicts the nest and eggs of a particular bird. The name of the bird, the date and location are all noted in ink by the artist. I see quite a few natural history watercolors from the 19th century, but nests are rare subjects. To find a set of twelve, well-preserved, in a nice large size, is very special.
Unlike many 19th c. natural history pictures, these nests lack the Romantic details often added to the compositon. In fact, the nests and eggs are set into the picture space in an almost modern fashion, prefiguring the work of Realists like Andrew Wyeth. I felt that French mats and gold frames would be too traditional for displaying these works, so I looked for a less conventional solution.
I have always liked the Tramp frames made from the 19th century up through the 1940s. The distinctive notched layers were cut by hand from thin layers of wood – usually old cigar boxes. The style of carving has roots in the old art of chip-carving, practiced in Northern Europe. Indeed some of the best Tramp frames come from the Black Forest or communities of German immigrants in the United States. I felt that the strong sculptural quality of these frames would complement my nests so, over a period of a few weeks, I assembled a group of Tramp frames and mounted the nests into them.
Each frame is different (and a work of art in itself). To fit the watercolors into the frames, we made 8 ply mats with Rising archival mat board, then wrapped them with Canson Ingres paper in an earth tone. The image-bearing paper is floated within the mat window, attached with rice-paper hinges. So far, I have seven of the nests framed this way. We are selling them in the frames or unframed if you prefer. I can always find a use for the Tramp frames – they make great mirrors with a piece of beveled old glass, for example.
Here are all twelve. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, or just post a comment below.