Framing of Aboriginal Artworks


Aboriginal artworks applied with acrylic paint on canvas or belgian linen are best framed using a stretcher frame

A stretcher frame is a wooden frame that supports the canvas from behind. The artwork is stretched across the frame and then attached by stapling the non-painted edges to the back of the wooden frame.

This has several advantages. Aboriginal artworks are often painted right to the edge of the canvas and the designs usually have a natural border or visible edge. Stretcher frames don't have visible borders. Unlike standard picture frames they don't need to take an indent from the edge. This means they do not take anything away from the experience of the original artwork.

Acrylic paint is very durable, so a glass cover is unnecessary. As they already have a wonderful glossy finish which changes in varying light, acrylic paintings work best when viewed without the distraction of glass.

It is also a very economic method. Any professional picture framer will be able to make you a stretcher frame to fit the work. Or you can do it yourself with some wood, nails and a staple gun.

Most works are painted onto canvases which are stretched on a frame. This working frame is then removed. When making your own frame, it is usually easy to see where the edges of the original frame were. You can choose to frame the painting there, or make a slightly larger frame so that all the paint sits on the front of the canvas - it's up to you.

Measure the painting from your chosen edge and make a frame to fit. Ensure you use wood that is strong enough to hold the stretch; we recommend a soft wood such as pine that is at least 1.5cm deep and 4cm thick. You can buy 'stretcher strips' cut to standard sizes from any art supply shop.

With larger works, you will need to add a brace beam to the frame so that it doesn't bend. Add a brace to any frame more than a metre wide.

The painting is stretched using canvas pliers or large bull clips with pieces of paper or cloth underneath to protect the work. Stretch the canvas gradually, pulling slightly from alternate edges until it is taut.

Staple the edges of the canvas to the back of the frame. Staple the centre of each side first, then the corners. Use heavy duty staples and ensure they are flush with the wood. Make sure you apply plenty of staples evenly all the way around the frame.

It's now easy to hang your painting using wire or string attached to the back of the wood. Stretcher frames ensure you will enjoy your Aboriginal artwork for many years to come.

Aboriginal word glossary