Robert Kulicke was an artist and frame maker who is credited for changing the appearance of postwar art by modernizing frame design. Born in Philadelphia in 1924, Kulicke first studied art in high school, and then went on to study advertising at the Philadelphia College of Art. After serving three years in the army during World War II, he became interested in framing. Disenchanted with the techniques of his contemporaries, however, he developed his own designs, studying in the atelier of Fernand Léger in Paris on the G.I. Bill.
When he returned to New York in 1951, he opened Kulicke Frames, and became friends with abstract expressionist painters such as Robert Motherwell (1915–1991) and Franz Kline (1910–1962), who encouraged Kulicke to design thin frames that would complement their work. In 1956, Kulicke created the welded aluminum frame for the Museum of Modern Art to use in traveling exhibitions, and shortly after created the Lucite frame for their photography department. After its 1984 expansion, the Museum of Modern Art replaced many of the older frames on their best-known masterpieces with Kulicke’s floating frames from the 1950s.
Kulicke was a prolific artist, and considered painting his life’s work. He enjoyed painting on a small scale, and often produced intimate, delicate still lifes of flowers or fruit. In 1968, after years of experimenting, he perfected the granulation technique, widely used from antiquity up to the eleventh century, and began to teach it at Kulicke Cloisonné Workshop, which he established in his studio in New York City. He also taught at the Scarsdale Studio Workshop School and in 1974, founded the Kulicke-Stark Academy with Jean Stark, which was renamed the Jewelry Arts Institute a decade later. Today, Kulicke’s paintings may be found at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Whitney Museum of American Art.