Flowers, Fruits and Frames: Art of Bob Kulicke

New York artist Bob Kulicke always said he didn’t want to be the biggest collector of his own work. Whether as a direct result of this attitude or not, he painted the most refined, nuanced, exquisite pictures, kept the prices tantalizingly low and sold at least 95% of everything he painted. An absurdly generous man, he gave most of the rest away. He was in no danger of becoming his own biggest collector. Owning a painting of his routinely led buyers to become obsessed with owning more, and many of his collectors owned 20, 30 or more of his pieces. I was reminded of this in early September at the opening of a show of some of his early paintings and drawings at Tibor de Nagy Gallery, 724 Fifth Avenue. There are 25 pieces in the exhibit, 20 from a single collection. Robert Kulicke: Paintings and Works on Paper 1959-1969 runs to October 12th.



Flowers –both watercolors and oils– predominate among the 20 pictures that form the core of the Tibor deNagy show. Some of the oils are extremely simplified; the watercolors and later oils approach the mature style that Kulicke referred to as “Classical Illusionism.” There are a few of his signature pears too, already on the verge of his mature style. Other pieces include a reverse painting of flowers on plexiglass, a typical pear drawing, a drawing on canvas in which a gray-blue T’ing ware pot, made by Kulicke himself, stands with a lightly sketched peach, apple and pear. Finally, there is a luscious bunch of green and purple grapes in a reproduction 17th Century Flemish frame, a design resurrected from an original Kulicke admired.

Single Pear
Single Pear

For many years Kulicke was the premier framer and frame-maker in New York, in demand initially for his accurate and beautiful reproductions of period frames from the 14th to 18th Century Italy, France and Spain. The need for new framing solutions for contemporary work was brought to his attention by the Museum of Modern Art when he was asked by their photography department to design new frames for them. His solutions soon became the industry standard, used and copied everywhere: the welded aluminum frame, a thin and subtle defining edge, and the plexibox frame, virtually no edge at all. The popularity of these innovations led him to the next development – the metal section frame, a defining edge almost as thin as the welded aluminum frame at a greatly reduced cost. Soon enough, his float frames, in welded aluminum or in various woods with gilded faces, became as ubiquitous as the others, and his factory was kept very busy indeed. Bob’s motto about framing: “The framer uses the forms of the architect to serve the painter.”

During the years of his re-invention of the framing industry, Kulicke’s need to paint was never pushed far into the background. He began to show his work in New York in the early 1960s and eventually established a life-long relationship with New York’s Davis & Long Gallery, later to become Davis & Langdale Company. His annual exhibitions there almost always sold out, and collectors kept coming back for more. After many shows there would be waiting lists for Kulicke’s flowers, pears and still life combinations.


Davis & Langdale still hold posthumous Kulicke exhibitions annually with works that come back to them from collector’s estates. The Adam Baumgold Gallery held a sold-out exhibition of Kulicke’s work a few years ago, and now Tibor de Nagy, a prominent Fifth Avenue gallery, has followed suit with its current show:


–Walter Jamieson, Jr., Brooklyn, N.Y.

Featured image: Green and Purple Grapes
Photos courtesy Tibor deNagy Gallery




Man with a Cello: New Work, watercolors by Blake Hurt will be on exhibit October 1-30th at Chroma Projects, Laboratory, 418 East Main St., Charlottesville. Hurt, an oil painter, watercolorist and computer artist, will discuss his latest work at a reception at 11 a.m., Saturday, October 12th.


“Some works,” says Hurt, “are a collage of actual copied drawings using pencil and tracing paper, fictions that emerged from fooling around with technical drawings from books of the late nineteenth century. Others are completely imaginative, and some where an actual machine description was the source of an idea for the drawing. With minor exceptions of ink and some scratching out, they are all pencil and watercolor on paper. There is something of the ‘steampunk’ style to them that appeals to the engineer in me.”

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