Framed! Julius Lowy, experts in period framing

by leslierankowfinearts

One of the great pleasures and extraordinarily informative experiences I have enjoyed is a tour of Julius Lowy Framing in their townhouse at 221 East 80th Street in New York. Brad Shar, third-generation of this family business, and his father, Larry, and their  staff are not only experts in recommending exactly the right frame for a beautiful Hudson River, Impressionist or modernist work but also great collectors of rare frames that date from the 16th to the 20th Century.

I appreciate Brad taking the time to speak with us about the history of styles and framing and the decisions he makes in his recommendation of a profile for a painting or work on paper. Let us know if you have any questions or concerns and he’d be pleased to answer them.

BRAD, PLEASE TELL US ABOUT THE HISTORY OF JULIUS LOWY & CO. I WAS FIRST RECOMMENDED TO YOU WHEN I BEGAN TO SELL 19th AND EARLY 20th CENTURY WORKS BUT I KNOW THE COMPANY WAS ESTABLISHED BY YOUR GRANDPARENTS MANY YEARS AGO.

Lowy was started in 1907 by Julius Lowy as a framing and art restoration outfit. Julius Lowy actually died in the 1920s and the company was willed to his widow. She then hired a man named Max Fagelson to run the company and he did so for many years.

WHY DID YOUR GRANDPARENTS DECIDE TO BE INVOLVED IN FRAMING PAINTINGS? WERE THEY COLLECTORS THEMSELVES? WHAT DREW THEM TO THIS BUSINESS?

My grandfather, Hilly Shar, had gone to accounting school after growing up in Hudson, New York. After he got his degree, he came to the city to find work in accounting but after finding no employment in the Depression, he got a job at Lowy, Max Fagelson being a distant cousin. He started out doing menial labor at the company but took an interest in the artwork and began learning to inpaint at night from the Lowy restorers. Over time, he grew to be the most talented restorer in the firm and began negotiating for partnership status.

After some years trying to convince the Lowy owners to take him in as partner, Hilly announced that he was opening up shop on his own with another top restorer named John Sisto and they opened Shar-Sisto Inc. in 1950. By 1956, most of the clientele which supported Lowy had become loyal to Shar-Sisto and the two firms merged in 1956 to become Julius Lowy and Shar-Sisto Inc.  Mr. Sisto passed away in 1957 and my family became the sole proprietors of the company.

WHEN DID LOWY START TO EXPAND THE PRACTICAL ASPECT OF THE FRAMING BUSINESS WITH ITS OWN COLLECTION OF EXTRAORDINARY PERIOD FRAMES OR DID THE OWNERSHIP OF PERIOD FRAMES INSPIRE THE FRAMING BUSINESS?

The collection of frames actually goes back to the company’s origins. The history of taste in framing has historically changed every decade, similar to home decorating. From the beginning, Lowy always had made a practice of keeping and filing the frames we replaced for clients’ paintings. In the beginning, American collectors would remove 18th Century French original frames and replace them with American-style frames for paintings by French Impressionists. twenty years later, the new collectors were looking to find the original French frames for those paintings to suit the current decorative trends.

NEXT WEEK, BRAD WILL SPEAK ABOUT FRAMES AS COLLECTIBLE ITEMS OF VALUE AND THE DIVERSE PROFILE OF CLIENTS WHO SHARE LOWY’S INTEREST AND COMMITMENT TO THIS EXTRAORDINARY ART FORM.

UNTIL THEN!