Segantini Reframed

Giovanni Segantini, Spring in the Alps, 1897

Frames, it's said, are not to be noticed. They can however shift the perception of a painting, and that's clearly the intention with the Getty Museum's new frame for Giovanni Segantini's Spring in the Alps. The former ornate gilt frame has been replaced by a white Shaker-esque design that emphasizes the artist's modernism. Segantini is little-known to American audiences, and his Alpine subject matter can be misread as chocolate box conservative. In his time the artist was considered a radical for his optical empiricism and mystic conception of the Swiss landscape. Segantini inspired the Italian Futurists and was cited by Kandinsky in On the Spiritual in Art: he "always succeeded in creating abstract values."

Segantini's Spring in the Alps in its former gilded frame (2019)


Lovely picture. Although the dog's absence would have made the picture stronger, I think.
Segatini sings the songs of autumn here.
The American Marsden Hartley was a great admirer. He said of Segantini: he was "the only artist who has ever put a mountain spirit on canvas."
I don't hold with that. See, for example, the master Ferdinand Hodler.
Anonymous said…
William Poundstone's write-up of the Segantini in 2019 mentions the Pre-Raphaelites. Which are artworks that show a lot of technical skill but leave me cold aesthetically. In turn, a rather plain white frame versus a more ornate gold one probably requires less technical skill to create. But either way, I respect the craftmanship that goes into making them.

Segantini straddles the line between the look of the very perfume-y Pre-Raphaelite and the look of an Impressionist. But he's a reminder that who or what is in/fashionable or who or what is out/unfashionable are altogether dependent on both the eye of the beholder and the influence of tastemakers of the elite.

The upcoming Lucas Museum versus, say, the Broad or MOCA is going to be another example of that.
Anonymous said…
If the Getty was hoping to start a revival, no signs of it yet.

So far, no major US museum, not even the top two college museums, have jumped on the Segantini bandwagon.

Maybe, just maybe, the Getty should have bought a Seurat instead.

... As to the frame, it does not help the painter's cause at all.
American museums are no oracles of artistic greatness. Most museums receive the lion's share of their collections through gifts, which depend on the taste of donors. Curators' tastes and focus determine what museums buy, and mistakes and questionable gaps persist everywhere.
Segantini's talent is clear for all to see in his museum in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Paintings highlights are shown at the following link, per your perusal:
Anonymous said…
^^^Oracles of artistic greatness?

Segantini is no emerging artist. He's been dead for more than a century.

What's taking so long for him to be universally acknowledged?

Two years after the Getty jumped on the bandwagon and still no work in the Met Collection. I seriously doubt that the curators at the Getty are better at judging "artistic greatness" than those at the Met?

Indeed, one would think that the Met's curators are in a better position to be filling in the gaps. The Met has a Seurat, a very remarkable one.
The Getty does not.

As to the Met's Seurat, it was a gift of Stephen C. Clark. Clark also donated Van Gogh's Night Cafe to the Yale Art Gallery. With donors like that, "artistic greatness" is a foregone conclusion...
Don't get me started on the Met.
Many seminal masters AWOL from the Met have been dead for far longer than Segantini, and are far more critical to telling the complete art-historical story of European painting.
The Met only bought its first Simon Vouet 5 minutes ago. They still have nothing by Gerrit van Honthorst.
Hope springs eternal.
Schwartz George said…
Without commenting on the merits of the painting, which I find exceptional and skillfully executed, or the artist, I cannot accord similar sentiments to the choice of the white frame.

The starkness of the white frame draws the observers’ eye away from the painting to an extent, that if anything, it emphasizes the “chocolate-box” aesthetic, a description I find odd.

The task of trying to determine the eye color of a driver approaching at night with high beam of their vehicle’s headlights on - comes to mind. Strong contrasts attract the eye and deny seeing detail and nuance.
Anonymous said…
When the Getty first bought the painting I thought to myself how well it fits in the room with the collection next to the Manet and Renoir, full of beautiful spring and garden-focused paintings. The other paintings flanking it helped to lift this beautiful work by Segantini. With the white frame, they’ll need to move it out of it’s former place to give it better context.

Maybe, just maybe, the Getty should have bought a Seurat instead.

Why do you think the Getty would need to decide between the two? Likely the Getty got a very good deal for this beautiful painting that probably cost them a dinner. Not likely did the Getty make Sophie’s choice for an imaginary Seurat that doesn’t even exist on the market.
Anonymous said…
> The starkness of the white frame draws the
> observers’ eye away...

Yea, given all the options, I'd have kept the previous frame.

The curator who made the switchover wasted a bit of the museum's time and money.

I enjoy the froufrou gilding and carving of the previous, French-style frame, but I'm impressed also by the traditional, simple, unadorned Swiss-style frame we see now.
Zurich, Basel, Geneva -- all the great Swiss paintings of the Segantini period are displayed in Swiss museums with plain, often white-painted, frames.
Tomayto, tomahto.
Chapps said…
Why in the name of all that is holy would the Getty reframe this portrait? It came with the original frame *that the artist had created for this painting*. In fact, that's the way it's featured on the Getty site. This Ikea frame is stunningly bad and detracts from the artwork in every way possible. What an insult to the art community and the general public, and to the memory of Seganti.
Interesting comment that the artist designed the gilded frame. I didn't see that stated on the web site, although it does say the artist designed the _mount_, which, of course, is not the same thing.
Chapps said…
From the Getty's own press release when they purchased the painting: 'Spring in the Alps comes to the Getty in the elaborate frame that the artist originally designed for it.' This is rather well-known, and was cause for major celebration at the time.

You do *not* remove paintings from frames specifically created for them - and certainly not frames designed by the artist himself. And there is no excuse for framing this painting in what looks like an Ikea flat-pack frame, which completely detracts from the art.
Chapps said…
If you view the painting in the Seganti-designed gold frame next to an image of the painting in this wide Shaker-style white frame, you'll immediately notice what frames do for a painting:

1. In the original frame, the gold enhances the warmth of the foreground, the lush green surroundings, the sun on the people, the animals and the path. You notice this foreground first, as the artist intended. The white snow-capped mountains in the background are a counterpoint to the spring meadows in the foreground.

2. In the white frame, all warmth is gone (I've seen it), and the blues dominate. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the matching white of the mountains and then the vast blue of the sky. You almost don't notice the foreground at all, and it's noticeably chillier, perhaps at the end of winter instead of the end of spring. It completely ruins the intention of the artist.

Seganti designed that frame to go with his painting as a package deal - that was the vision he wanted his audience to see. I can't imagine why the museum would ruin that complementary relationship between frame and painting. The artist would be furious, if he could see this.
Chapps said…
And, I know, it's Segantini. I always make that mistake. Sigh ...
Unknown said…
What is this??? At the Getty?? Displacing an original frame?? Really? 2022??