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American, (Emporia, KS, 1932 - 2018, Scottsville, NY)
Dr. Caligari, 1984
Curly cherry veneer, ebony and gold-plated brass
92 1/2 x 31 1/2 x 26 1/2 in. (235 x 80 x 67.3 cm), overall
Given in honor of Joan M. Vanden Brul by her family, 88.1
Currently on View
About the Object
Dr. Caligari is among a series of thirteen clocks that Wendell Castle created in the 1980s. He made them at the suggestion of his dealer, who urged him to create a body of work that would challenge the critics' association of Castle with functional furniture. Castle was particularly interested in the concept of time, and Dr. Caligari is a fanciful exploration of time travel. Its tall case is rich with connections to traditional grandfather clocks. It suggests either a trip to the past in an ancient obelisk, or to the future, in a rocket ship.
The title of the work was inspired by the angular set design of the 1920 German Expressionist film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The clock's painted interior was intended to suggest the silent horror film's unsettling mood. Castle and his longtime associate Don Sottile developed a smearing technique using India ink over gesso that gave the painted finish its distinctive feathered edges.