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Thomas Wilfred's "Clavilux Junior,"

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Clocks, Watches & Scientific Instruments - 2804M
Date / Time :
April 25, 2015 10:00AM


Thomas Wilfred's "Clavilux Junior," Clavilux Laboratories, New York, May 1930, walnut veneered Art Deco cabinet housing the convex white screen, upper and lower colored bulbs in the upper section of the cabinet, bottom section with remote control, pierced disc turntable to allow light to filter through for projection of colored glass discs, light projection tube, and disc storage, original typed label reading The Clavilux Junior Model P.X K 100-CW Patented #85 May 1930 This instrument sold for amateur use only. It can not be used for lecturing, advertising or for any public display. Thomas Wilfred, clear 8-in. glass disc with five various prism shapes, six colored disc with labels reading in part Clavilux Junior with record numbers OP 72 through OP 76, six clear glass discs, cabinet ht. 68 in.

Note: The Clavilux, developed in the early 1920s by Thomas Wilfred, was the first and most famous experimental color-instrument, at that time referred to as "Lumia." The Clavilux employed several projectors and filters that allowed light to dance across the screen which was controlled by a keyboard or console comprising of sliders. A complicated arrangement of prisms that could be twisted or distorted on a plane in front of the light source with the color strength being manipulated by separate rheostats which was operated by the performer or artist. Introduced in New York in 1922, in 1925 the Clavilux went on an extensive recital tour throughout the Unites States, Canada, and Europe, with some comparing the performance or display to the Aurora Borealis, or "music for the eye."

The Art Institute of Light was set up by Wilfred at the Grand Central Palace in New York where he gave regular performances up until WWII. After WWII, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) curator Dorothy Miller included Wilfred's "Lumia" or "light played by key" in the 1952 exhibition titled Fifteen Americans, which also included Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. More recently, his work was included in Terrence Malick's movie Tree of Life in 2011.

For more information please see Ken Peacock's article in Leonard, November 1991; Jen Graves in The Stranger, 2014.
Estimate $3,000-5,000

The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from wear and tear, imperfections or the effects of aging. Condition requests can be obtained via email (lot inquiry button) or by telephone to the appropriate gallery location (Boston/617.350.5400 or Marlborough/508.970.3000). Any condition statement given, as a courtesy to a client, is only an opinion and should not be treated as a statement of fact. Skinner Inc. shall have no responsibility for any error or omission.


Clavilux Laboratories, Thomas Wilfred, Lumia, Art Institute of Light, Grand Central Palace, Mark Rothko, curator, Dorothy Miller, Jackson Pollock, Terrence Malick, Tree of Life, Ken Peacock, Jen Graves