In the decades prior, Marin had his frames painted to reflect the tones of the watercolors. In the 1930s, he began to paint the frames themselves, using colors that echoed the palette of the painting. It is at this point that Marin literally extended the activity of the paper or canvas onto the very edges of the frame. Departing from the flat, square design seen on his work in the 1910s and 1920s, the profiles of these frames are comprised of an angular, flat section with astragals on the outer and inner edges. The most fervent example of this style is Sailboat, Brooklyn Bridge, New York Skyline, with its hastily painted inner astragal of gray-blue, which reflects the dominant color of the composition while leaving some of the ivory base showing through. Marin then applied dark brown and black paint to the flat angular section, punctuating this mixed color with dabs of blue and yellow. In this way, he was able to extend the painting’s evocation of New York’s energy and vitality to the outer edges of the frame. The Art Institute’s collection contains three original frames on Marin’s 1930s watercolors; a fourth frame examined for this study appears on an oil painting from the Terra Foundation for American Art.

See the frame profiles for Valley of the Hondo, New Mexico, Sailboat, Brooklyn Bridge, New York Skyline, and Sea, Green and Brown, Maine.

John Marin. Sailboat, Brooklyn Bridge, New York Skyline (detail), 1934. Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Art Acquisition Endowment Fund.