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Jonah and the Whale Wall Clock
1979
George A. McFadden (1904-1991)
USA: Massachusetts, Winchester
Wood; metal; paint
32-1/2"h (with weights) x 13.25"w x 7.5"d
Gift of the Estate of George A. McFadden
91.018.7a-b

Jonah and the Whale wall clock. A is the clock, shaped like a castle in tan and teal, with red roofs and a dome at center. In the middle is water with a gray whale with a seated man in its mouth. Below the whale is the dial with Roman numerals and black hands. Three gray fish hang down as weights. B is a salmon-colored starfish pendulum.


Imagination and a love of making things shaped George A. McFadden’s life (1904-1991). As a teenager, he created an automated display featuring a soda-drinking Eskimo to help sell Clicquot Club ginger ale at his family’s pharmacy in Maine. Soon after he put his talent to the test when he enrolled at the Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston. McFadden embraced the study of design, particularly for theater. For years, he and his wife Alyce, a costume designer he had met at the Museum School, worked together for Massachusetts theaters. But McFadden’s design and fabrication skills also led him in other directions. During his a half-century-long career, he designed jewelry, created mechanized displays for department stores, and even conceived automated devices used in circus acts. In retirement McFadden developed a passion for clocks, especially cuckoo clocks. His Winchester, Massachusetts, neighbors and other clock enthusiasts brought him timepieces for repair. McFadden also made a clock for himself every year. In making these brightly colored, appealing, and humorous clocks, he used reconditioned works from old timepieces, built the whimsical clock cases, crafted the moving figures and mechanisms, and finally even added sounds. All of these details gave his clocks an extra dose of liveliness. In McFadden’s unconventional renditions of familiar themes, angels bang out tunes on the organ, Jonah struggles in the maw of the whale, and skeletons dance. As they tell their stories, these clocks also speak of McFadden’s creativity and sense of humor. After he retired, every year McFadden made a clock for his own pleasure, each designed around a theme. This clock tells McFadden’s version of the story of Jonah and the Whale. In crafting these whimsical clocks, McFadden put his energy into their color, appeal and charm. To run the clocks, he primarily used reconditioned works from old timepieces. As they tell their stories, McFadden’s clocks also speak to their maker’s creativity and sense of humor. "Keeping Time: Clockmakers and Collectors," October 10, 2015 - ongoing (2017)