When to Frame “Gallery Wrapped” Canvas

To frame or not to frame a painted edge gallery wrapped canvas is a question not even Shakespeare could have definitively answered.

What is gallery-wrapped canvas, anyway? Technically, the canvas is wrapped around the stretcher bars and stapled in the back. This allows the sides to be painted. However, I most often use the term to refer to canvas wrapped around deep (1.5 inch or more) stretcher bars, or other support. Deep stretcher bars are less likely to warp or deform when not framed. With deep painted sides, framing is optional, though sometimes desirable.

My favourite way to frame deep gallery wrapped paintings can benefit is in a “reveal frame” or “relief frame”. These are frames that cup or cradle the painting in a way that the painted sides are revealed, as in the photo below. Typically, the frame matches the painting’s depth. I have made some of my own reveal frames, though most framing shops can supply them.

Framing any painting protects the edges of your investment. A good frame will also augment the painting. Arguably, framing is an art in itself. They are worth the investment. That said, sometimes the minimalistic clean lines of an unframed canvas are exactly what is needed. As long as the painting support (stretched canvas, cradled panel, etc) can hang on the wall without the help of a frame, it becomes a purely aesthetic decision.

It is easy to see how the painting below, Momma Is Watching, ‘pops’ when framed.