Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Summertime Metal Frame Celebration!

For the next 8 weeks, American Frame celebrates the genius of the late Robert Kulicke (1924-2007), painter, designer and originator of the aluminum picture frame.

Starting Wednesday July 8, look for sales on your favorite metal designs, and enjoy savings up to 40% off our already low wholesale direct prices depending on volume, plus a free custom cut mat board from our Crescent Berkshire line of colors.

A long time student of early American and European framing techniques, Kulicke was, throughout his career, the distinguished expert on picture framing in the United States. He was often called on by some of the world’s most renowned museums to assist in solving difficult technical framing issues. “He was a superb craftsman of reproduction frames, making them for some of the greatest paintings in this country, including Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci in the National Gallery of Art in Washington and Giotto’s “Epiphany” in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

The birth of the metal frame is dated to 1956, when the The Museum of Modern Art www.moma.org in New York consulted him to create a framing solution suitable for movable exhibitions. His first rendition was in welded aluminum, finally introduced in 1960, inspired by the Mies Van de Rohe Barcelona chair of 1928 http://architecture.about.com/od/findproductsservices/ss/chairs_5.htm
This design was embraced by abstract expressionist painters Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman and William DeKooning who loved the “clean aesthetic” as it related to their genre. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstract_expressionism

It was later, in 1966 when Kulicke created the aluminum section frame www.americanframe.com/Departments/Metal-Frames.aspx in response to demand for a much lower cost solution to the welded version of this product. His idea was to sell the frames in pairs, in the same manner that stretcher bars for canvases were sold. His challenge was in procuring the hardware needed, or corner brackets to support his design. It took until ’66 to locate the hardware to secure the corners from a supplier in Canada, and in 1967 he started mass production and distribution through his New York based company, Kulicke Frames.

In 1971, Nielsen www.nielsen-bainbridge.com patented a corner joint system for the Kulicke frame and then grew to become the world’s largest manufacturer of the product. This was possible since Kulicke purposely did not patent his designs. He viewed “originality (as) a by-product of a search for the answers to a technical or an aesthetic problem”. He insisted that “invention is always an evolutionary development” and therefore not “owned” by it’s developer.

So here’s to Mr. Kulicke who made custom picture framing economical and accessible to us all.


  1. Interesting "Story" how is it that Mr. Kulicke had several patents issued if he didn't patent his designs?


  2. You are right. There are two patents in the Kulicke name which have come to my attention since this posting: 2777 232 1957 and 3003 272 1961 so I don't understand why the sources I consulted for my article would not have listed these in their writings. This weekl I will post an update to this blog as I've received many interesting comments, calls and letters since this posting, and have learned that the trusted sources cited may have edited out information not supportive of their central claims. Please stay tuned and thanks for your comment.

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