Although very on-trend right now, the French hang actually originated in 17th century Parisian cafes, where struggling artists such as Renoir and Matisse and other art graduates would hold public exhibitions. They would have to hang their paintings from floor to ceiling to fit them all in the small cafes and salons. It resulted in some very well dressed cafe walls full of small canvases that made for an energetic mix with plenty of colour and life!
A french hang is not only decoratively satisfying but a great way to enter the art or photography market, purchasing smaller works one at a time and adding to your hang as you go.
There are many ways to approach a French hang. Some like to have a common theme running throughout the entire hang such as a colour or a subject matter, but many like to approach it with a no rules, no holds barred school of thought creating a rarefied pinboard of sorts. The best thing about hanging your artwork in this way is that you can work on it organically adding to it until your eyes are content and your walls full!
To avoid mayhem here are some rules of thumb when creating your own French hang:
Start with five artworks. Any fewer and the pieces wont have enough substance on your walls. Even if you plan on progressively adding to your hang you will still need to start with a solid base number of pieces to avoid it looking lazy or lost.
Before you begin, decide whether your framed pieces will have the same size or colour of frame or if your are going to mix it all up. Either works beautifully but you do need to decide this important piece of information from the outset, otherwise it will become difficult to build your hang in the future. Always remember that there isn't any need for your frames to match, thats entirely up to you, however to make the composition more appealing to the eye, blend the colour and rhythm of your artwork with objects around the room such as a lounge, lamp or table - ideally something more permanent that you're not likely to change up very often.
Choose an anchor piece for your hang. This is your centre work. It doesn't need to be particularly impressive in its subject or worth but it does need to be quite large in scale in comparison to the other pieces you are adding. The purpose of this piece is not to attract all the attention but to work as an anchor for the other pieces and as the main shaping point to construct the rest of your hang around.
Once the centre piece is decided, the rest of the works can be added. Whilst the beauty of this hanging style means that the artworks don't all need to be hung in grid like unison on the wall, it is important that a balance and random cohesion is still evident throughout the hanging. You can do this by selecting textures, colours and dimensions that all work in harmony.
One of the easiest ways to ensure you get a french hang right BEFORE you hammer any nails in, is to blu-tac pieces of paper cut to the shape and size of your artworks and into formation on the wall. That way you can move them about until you are happy with the placement and position of each piece. This technique also allows you to be able to step back and survey the hang from a distance to make sure you have the proportions in scale to the rest of the room and its furniture.
Remember a french hang is a work in progress, eclectic in style and forever changeable. Switch artworks out and replace them with similar sized pieces, text, postcards, photographs, kids drawings…the possibilities are endless and the results always breathtaking. That truly is the beauty of this style of hanging so let out your inner creative beast and unleash its magic until your hearts, walls and eyes are blissfully happy!