Frank Salisbury and the Auricular Frame

by The Frame Blog

by Caroline Oliver

Frank Owen Salisbury (1874-1962) was an English artist, known for his portraits and large-scale paintings of ceremonial events. Initially trained as a stained-glass artist, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools and travelled to Italy. The Guildhall Art Gallery owns a number of his paintings and drawings, including Sir Horace Brooks Marshall (1919), which is framed in a contemporary Auricular-style pattern (Fig. 1).

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Fig. 1 Frank Salisbury, Sir Horace Brooks Marshall, 1919, Guildhall Art Gallery.  Photo: GAG Conservation

This is an unusual choice for a 20th century portrait. There was an interest in historical frame styles, both original and contemporary copies, in the early years of the 20th century, by artists such as de Laszlo and Lavery, but there is little evidence of Auricular styles being used.

Salisbury was not just an artist but also a craftsman; throughout his life he continued to design stained-glass and took every opportunity to use his diverse skills. For his own enjoyment he sculpted, gilded, upholstered, and designed his own house. His evident sympathy with the ideals of the Arts & Crafts Movement can also be shown by his educated interest in frame design. There is evidence of two different styles of Auricular frame favoured by Salisbury.

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Fig. 2 Frank Salisbury, Nancy, 1927, Woolley & Wallace Salisbury Salerooms

The one used on Sir Horace Brooks Marshall has an unusual and distinctive lion motif which spans the top corners, with a shield at the top and a mask at the bottom. This design is also used, with adjustments for size purposes, on Nancy (Fig. 2) and Girl with Yellow Flowers.

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Fig. 3 Frank Salisbury, Maude, 1902-4, courtesy of Caroline Spiers, Framemaking & Restoration

A different pattern is used on Fieldmice (1909) and Maude, White and Gold (Fig. 3); this is characterized by the use of more ‘ribbing’ and flattened ‘scrolling’. Whilst it is so far difficult to tell if Salisbury’s use of the different patterns overlap, this earlier style can be linked more directly to the original form: it is strikingly similar to the frame of George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys by John Michael Wright (1673; National Portrait Gallery). Salisbury had a longstanding association with the framemaking firm of Bourlet, a company which has been running for over 160 years; the consistency of his designs over a considerably period indicates that Bourlet may have made these Auricular frames. Salisbury also used a local maker in Harpenden, a Mr Fowler, but the evidence points to the latter being a furniture-maker who helped him with frames on a more irregular basis.

Caroline Oliver is Lead Conservator at Guildhall Art Gallery

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