The name Eastman Johnson may not ring a bell when it comes to famous artists. But I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of one of his greatest accomplishments — he co-founded the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) in NYC. Yet he himself was a painter and his work Woman Reading is one of my all time favorites.
Handsome and I got married 3 months before his first deployment – a 7-month-long separation. Not one to sit around pouting, I adventured all around San Diego to fill the time. On an outing to the SD Museum of Art, I saw the original of this painting and was instantly smitten. She felt familiar and I connected with the idea of reading letters from a distant love (this was before Skype, people!). I found the sparse composition and muted color palette calming and loved how the water is not actually painted but rather implied with the reflection of the sailboat.
This past Christmas, twelve years after first seeing it, my cousin bought me my very own oversized print of Woman Reading. For several days I let it sit under my set of trusty cornhole bags to flatten it from its shipping tube.
Most of the art that hangs in our house was done by yours truly. Not really a bragging statement, I’m simply too picky (and frugal) to hang just anything. But this piece was to be framed and displayed properly! I got quotes from custom frame shops and craft stores… HO-LY milk maker. Those 60% off framing ads are nonsense. The minimum they wanted to rob me of was over $200.
My bargain hunter alter-ego kicked in hard.
The kids and I scoured thrift stores for something that might work and found this …
Scary right? But you gotta look past the two-tone wood frame and faded ensemble of creepy kids! Here you can see just how large it is (as well as another nice frame I snagged for a different project). Bug wasn’t convinced.
Below is the frame shop quote for a chincy frame with single mat (left) and what I paid the thrift store for a large, solid wood frame with glass and double mat (right). Cue the happy dance.
After disassembling the frame, I patched a few nicks in the edges with Ready Patch spackling compound, let dry and sanded flat.
A couple coats of Rustoleum Oil Rubbed Bronze spraypaint took care of the rest.
Initially I planned to cut a brand new mat, but luck was on my side and it was a precise fit (I’m talking millimeters)! Then I was going to spraypaint the mat, but when I placed it on top of the artwork, it was pretty much perfect as-is. Even the dark gold inner color worked.
I cleaned the glass and reassembled everything. Framing staples originally held in the art and backer board, but since I had to tear those out I kept the new art in place with small wire nails instead.
Then I just replaced the hanging hardware and added cut adhesive felt furntiure pads on each bottom corner to keep it from scratching the wall.
If that’s not an uptown look for a downtown price, I don’t know what is. Can I get an amen?!
Now every morning I wake up to my favorite painting and feel mighty good about my latest thrift store success story!