Enfilade

Exhibition | Making Time: The Art of the Kentucky Tall Case Clock

Posted in books, catalogues, conferences (to attend), exhibitions by Editor on March 30, 2019

Now on view at the Speed Art Museum:

Making Time: The Art of the Kentucky Tall Case Clock, 1790–1850
Speed Art Museum, Louisville, 2 February — 16 June 2019

Curated by Scott Erbes

Case attributed to Daniel Spencer (American, about 1741–1796), Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky, Tall Case Clock, 1793–96; cherry, poplar, chestnut, walnut; eight-day brass and steel movement, 98 inches high (Cox Collection).

Making Time: The Art of the Kentucky Tall Case Clock, 1790–1850 is a first-of-its-kind exhibition devoted to early Kentucky tall case, ‘grandfather’ clocks. The exhibition showcases twenty-seven clocks made across a wide swath of Kentucky from the 1790s through the 1840s. The majority of the clocks come from family and private collections and have rarely, if ever, been shared with the public. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated scholarly catalog that presents significant new research on early Kentucky cabinetmaking and the state’s watch and clock trade.

When shown side-by-side, the clocks reveal the expert hands of many Kentucky artisans; illustrate the hidden world of gears, bells, weights, and pendulums that kept the clocks running and chiming; and record the complex webs of craft, taste, trade, and technology needed to make these practical works of art. Throughout the exhibition, the clock cases illustrate the talents of early Kentucky cabinetmakers, both native-born and those who came to the state in search of success. These artisans transformed local woods like cherry and walnut into towering cases that frequently incorporate flourishes like inlaid decoration, carved ornament, and richly figured veneers. The results range from urbane, Federal-style creations to more idiosyncratic, often boldly inlaid forms. Numerous Kentucky silversmiths are associated with the intricate movements housed within the various clocks.

Just in Time: Exploring Kentucky Tall Case Clocks
Speed Art Museum, Louisville, 18 May, 9:00–3:00

Come join us for a study day exploring the backstories behind early Kentucky tall case clocks with the experts who created the exhibition Making Time: The Art of the Kentucky Tall Case Clock, 1790–1850. Enjoy a morning of presentations focused on the art, history, and technology of these Kentucky treasures; an opportunity to purchase signed copies of the exhibition’s accompanying catalog; and an afternoon tour of the exhibition with its creators. $75.

Scott Erbes (Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, Speed Art Museum), From the Beginning: An Introduction to Kentucky Tall Case Clocks

Early Kentucky tall case clocks tell many stories: of the talented artisans who created them, of local and regional practices, of fashionable taste, of international trade, of the nature of time and timekeeping in Federal America, and of family memory. This overview will touch on these themes and others, setting the stage for the day’s conversations.

Mack Cox (independent researcher and collector), Making the Case for the Art in Kentucky Tall Case Clocks

Kentucky tall case clocks consist of locally made cases mated with clock movements, dials, and other components often made elsewhere. While the latter are often well documented, the Kentucky-made portions and artistic expressions of early Kentucky craftsmen are nearly unknown. Based on over a decade of serious study of Kentucky furniture, this lecture will shed light on the art and Kentucky parts of the Kentucky tall case clock.

Bob Burton (independent researcher and collector), What Makes It Tick: Inside Kentucky Tall Case Clocks

The movements and related parts in Kentucky tall case clocks vary widely in type, materials, and origins. This discussion will reveal these secrets, exploring the time-keeping mechanisms, painted dials, and other components that marked the time in early Kentucky clocks.

Greg Black (independent researcher and collector), Will the Real Elijah Warner Please Stand Up?

Over the past decades, much has been written about Elijah Warner of Lexington, Kentucky, especially that he was a cabinetmaker and clockmaker. The recent discovery of nineteenth-century documents and advertisements cast new light on Warner’s training and occupation and the goods he produced and sold. This presentation will review this information to bring the real Elijah Warner into better focus.

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