Frames by a Friend

James McLaughlin holding Marjorie Phillips's painting

Detail of a photo of James McLaughlin with a group of young museum-goers, holding Marjorie Phillips’s painting, Night Baseball. Photo: Phillips Collection Archives.

James (Jim) McLaughlin worked at The Phillips Collection for almost five decades as a gallery preparator and curator. He shared a close relationship with Duncan and Marjorie Phillips, and he often accompanied their family on trips to their summer home in Pennsylvania.

A painter, a family man, and a self-taught craftsman, McLaughlin built his own house and carved frames for many paintings in The Phillips Collection. The above photo shows McLaughlin holding a frame he carved for Marjorie Phillips’s painting, Night Baseball. Phillips Installations Manager Bill Koberg recalls the frames that McLaughlin sometimes carved for works loaned to the Phillips without frames: “He used a profile and carved into it an alternating U-shape pattern that traveled across the face. Splendid to see.” U-shaped ornamental patterns are sometimes referred to as “egg and dart” or “lamb’s tongue” by woodworkers and frame specialists. McLaughlin’s nephew, David McLaughlin, says, “Not only did he make his own frames, as we know, but put frames together for many other paintings that came into The Phillips Collection. . . . He became known for his lovely custom-gouged and distressed frame work, so many other painters in the area used his beautiful frames . . .”

During a recent visit to Laurie McLaughlin Ward’s home (McLaughlin’s daughter), the U-shape ornamental motif could be seen in many of McLaughlin’s frames. Below is a photo taken at Laurie’s house of a Duncan Phillips painting in a frame that McLaughlin carved.

Photos: Jenna Kowalke-Jones

To honor James McLaughlin’s memory, The Phillips Collection has held an annual staff show since 1984, to feature the works of artists employed at the museum.

The 2012 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show is on view September 4-October 9, 2012.  Please join us for the reception on September 27, 5:30-8 pm. This year’s show features 35 artworks, of various media, all by Phillips Collection staff.

Jenna Kowalke-Jones, Young Artists Exhibitions Program Coordinator

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