Clockmaker’s Workshop, 1906
About the object
A man is making shield clocks in his workshop. At first clocks were generally built during the winter months as a cottage industry. Over time, clockmakers specialised in crafting all year round. Nowadays, the Black Forest is famous for its cuckoo clocks, however, their popularity only began to grow in the late-19th century.
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Today the Black Forest is famous for its clocks, though hardly any are actually still produced in the region. Most people think of cuckoo clocks; these, however, did not became popular until the late 19th century. The clock-making industry developed in the Black Forest as early as the 17th century. At first, most clocks were made in simple home workshops. The inhabitants used the long winter months, when agriculture was impossible, to specialize in a diverse range of products. The clocks were first made in cottage industry and sold directly by peddlers in the urban centers in and around the Black Forest. Soon, however, most clockmakers became specialized enough to concentrate on their clock-making year round. In the 19th century, support from the state of Baden facilitated the development of a thriving clock industry, and in 1850 a clock-making school was founded in Furtwangen in the Black Forest. In this painting by Paul Segisser, an older man sits at his workshop table and assembles the shield clocks typical of the Black Forest. Completed shield clocks stand on a shelf on the wall. The workshop is supplied with only the simplest equipment; according to the legends and stories of the Black Forest, early clockmakers used only a woodcarving knife. For the Black Forest clocks, the individual clock faces-the shields-were painted and then attached to the clockwork. As we see in the painting, the clock faces were often made of wood; by the time this picture was created, however, the clocks had long since begun to be industrially produced. Thus Segisser’s image is probably intended to cast a romantic look back at the beginnings of clock production in the Black Forest. TILMANN VON STOCKHAUSEN (Transl. MELISSA THORSON)