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Horology in Art Symposium

Type: Conferences & Symposia [View all]
Posted by: National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
Deadline: Thu, October 26th, 2017

The 2017 Ward Francillon Time Symposium, sponsored by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, will be presented in the Alfond Auditorium at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on October 26-28.  The unique theme, never before addressed at a conference, focuses on the appearance and significance of clocks, watches, hourglasses and sundials in important international works of art.  The public is welcome. Visit for more information. 

A roster of eighteen eminent art-history curators and scholars will offer illustrated lectures on the areas of their expertise, utilizing artwork examples including timepieces.  Attendees will hear from renowned experts such as Princeton University Emeritus Curator John Wilmerding, University of Lyon (France) Emeritus Professor Philippe Bordes, Vassar College Professor Susan Donahue Kuretsky, Harvard University Professor Robin Kelsey, and University of South Florida Emeritus Professor Donald Saff.  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, curators also speaking include Dennis Carr, Thomas Michie, Lawrence Berman, and Emily Stoehrer.  MFA Emeritus Curator Gerald W.R. Ward will deliver “Frozen in Time: The Museum as History’s Clock” at the concluding dinner banquet hosted at the Harvard Club of Boston.

For more than 2,000 years, timekeepers have appeared in art.  An ancient Roman mosaic depicting “Plato’s Academy” showed a pedestal-mounted sundial, a 1285 manuscript illuminated a water clock, several 16th century Renaissance portraits by Titian featured small gilt mechanical table clocks, American folk and genre painters included shelf, banjo and tall clocks in their domestic scenes, Marc Chagall often depicted a German wall clock from his Eastern European boyhood home, and Jamie Wyeth’s 1994 view on Monhegan Island had his teenage model Orca Bates posed next to a stately antique grandfather clock.

Unlike random photo snapshots, nothing in paintings, drawings, prints and fine-art photography appeared by accident.   Each artist decided what to include.  In many, if not most, instances where clocks and watches are present, they had symbolic or metaphorical significance.  When mechanical timepieces first appeared in the 13th century, analogies to “God the clockmaker” were common, linking a clock’s steady self-propelled action to the motion of the entire universe.   During the Renaissance, timekeepers demonstrated a person’s or city’s affluence, discipline, and technological sophistication.  Later artworks continued to use clocks and watches to symbolize mortality and the need for people to wisely use their time on earth.  More modern depictions have emphasized the growing tyranny of timekeeping that governs all our waking hours.  Sometimes the timepiece simply showed the time, but usually for a specific reason.

Symposium organizer is Bob Frishman, Chairman of the NAWCC Symposium Committee.  He is founder and owner of Bell-Time Clocks in Andover,

Massachusetts.   He is an NAWCC Fellow and a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers (London, UK).  He lectures regularly on “Horology in Art” and has written more than thirty feature articles on the subject for the NAWCC magazine. 

The National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, founded in 1943 and boasting 12,000 members, is the world’s largest horological organization and sponsors an annual educational conference.   All details and registration information on this year’s groundbreaking event are at  

Posted on Wed, April 26th, 2017
Expires on Thu, October 26th, 2017

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