Making Time: The Art of the Kentucky Tall Case Clock, 1790-1850

2 February–16 June 2019

Exhibition Overview

Movement associated with Asa Blanchard and Thomas McMurray, Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky, Tall Case Clock, about 1807. Cherry, poplar, hardwoods, cherry veneer. Eight-day brass and steel movement. 97-3/4 in. h. x 17-7/8 in. w. x 10-1/4 in. d. Collection of Dr. Allen Grimes Jr.

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.

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