Artwork on canvas / board

This term refers to oils, acrylics, and paintings on board that have been varnished, so protection by glazing is no longer necessary.  This means that a mount isn’t necessary either.   Of course, if you want to add a mount for the visual effect, by all means do so, but you will need to glaze it. Sometimes a small oil can look better treated in this way.

This oil by Frank Burke is only 16cm wide by 14cm high; it looks much more impressive framed in this way than it would have done “close-framed”, i.e. without a mount.  

Incidentally, the reason you occasionally find Victorian or later oils under glass is because the varnishes they had at the time were prone to oxidise, and turn dark brown. So if it was glazed, rather than varnished, the oil was still protected. In this case the colours would be as fresh as the day they were painted.

Modern varnishes don’t turn brown, so you can use them with impunity, provided you use those sold for the purpose by art material suppliers. If your painting is less than 1 year old, a light coat of retouching varnish is all that is recommended; wait until it is a year old to give it a coat of final varnish.

The width and colour of the frame is even more important without a mount. A narrow frame on an oil looks mean and amateurish; even on small oils. You can combine two or more mouldings to achieve  the desired width, and the inside frame can act as a brightener, or a way of defining the edges when there is a danger of the colours of the painting merging into the frame in places.

If you don’t want the frame to overpower the painting, choose the colour carefully. Complementary colours (those opposite each other on the colour wheel, like yellow and purple, blue and orange,  and red and green) accentuate each other. Putting a reddish gold frame on a painting with a blue sky, for example, is wrong, in my opinion. Silver, grey or white would be better, in general.