Many pastel artists are abandoning traditional mat and frame presentations and replacing them instead with wide wood frames. This allows the pastel to look less like a print or poster, which commonly have a wide surrounding border. These works are attracting the attention of the canvas-buying public. Commonly, oil and acrylic paintings are displayed with a wider wood frame that may or may not have a small liner. A pastel presented in a similar fashion demands the same respect often afforded these canvas media. This is especially true when anti- or low-reflection glazing is utilized, like Tru Vue brand AR and Museum Glass. Many prominent galleries are encouraging this presentation and most national pastel exhibitions are seeing entries framed in this manner.
The traditional mat serves as more than a decorative border; it acts as a spacer, holding the delicate pastel surface away from the glass. When matting is eliminated, the framing options are to either sandwich the painting against the glass (an old French method) or to utilize a spacer. Most framing experts agree that it is best to keep the pastel surface away from the glass. For this reason, I use a spacer when framing mat-less. I have found an excellent assortment of spacers to be available from Art Spacers. They come in an array of sizes, have adhesive on one side, and are easy to cut to size. These manufactured spacers make it a breeze to have a pastel ready to hang in a matter of minutes. Cut the spacer to fit the sides of the glass, peal the tape back to expose the adhesive, and stick it to the outside of the glass. Once attached to the glass, simply place it on top of the painting with a non-acidic, PH-balanced backing behind the painting. For added stability, seal the glass to the backing. Use PH-neutral tape available from a framing supply. Attach the tape to the front edge of the glass and wrap it around the sides to adhere it to the backing. This seals the painting between the glass, spacer and backing, allowing for easy placement into a frame and easy removal if needed.
With today’s readily available selection of plein air (or impressionist) frames, selecting a style that compliments your painting has never been easier. Whether to use a mat or go mat-less is up to you, but it is nice to have the option.