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The Maker of Goblins

Oil on canvas
32 1/8 x 26 1/8 inches
1919

Characteristic of William Edouard Scott’s depictions of African American life, The Maker of Goblins is a playful rendering of the autumnal tradition of pumpkin carving. The painting is housed in an ornate frame that is rather uncharacteristic for fine art of the period (click image to view). While the frame may at first appear to be constructed of typical materials such as molded plaster or carved wood, it is instead a work of papier-mâché, fabricated by the artist himself. A technique in which thin strips of paper are layered and sealed with an adhesive and then dried into a hard, shell-like material, papier-mâché was a favored frame-making method for Scott. However, due to the fragility of the material, few of Scott’s handmade frames are fully intact to this day.

One hundred years after its creation, The Maker of Goblins’ frame is a pristinely preserved example of Scott’s strikingly detailed and delicate technique. A careful inspection reveals that, with many layers, creative shading, and patience, fragile materials can be transformed into an elaborate and long-lasting work of art.

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