Cornell, Joseph

Cornell, Joseph,

American artist, 1903–72, b. Nyack, N.Y. Cornell is best known for his surrealist-flavored shadow boxes. These are relatively small constructions, within glass-fronted shallow boxes or frames, made of a wide variety of found objects, maps, photographs, engravings, and other materials. The Cornell boxes possess a unique visual magic, and their selection and arrangement are extraordinarily evocative and filled with personal symbolism. Hôtel du Nord (c.1953; Whitney Mus., New York City) is a representative work.


See biography by D. Solomon (1997); D. Ashton and J. Ashbery, ed., A Joseph Cornell Album (1974, repr. 2002); A. Leppanen-Guerra and D. Tashjian, ed., Joseph Cornell's Manual of Marvels (2012); studies by D. Waldman (2002), I. Schafffner (2003), and L. R. Hartigan (2007).

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Cornell, Joseph

(1903–72) assemblage/collage artist; born in Nyack, N.Y. He attended Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. (1917–21), worked for his father's textile company, and after his father's death, moved to Utopia Parkway, Flushing, New York City, where he spent the rest of his life. Something of a recluse, he collected ephemera, books, and objects. Often regarded as a Surrealist, he was influenced by Max Ernst's La Femme 100 Tetes, a collage-novel (1929). His work consisted of small boxes for walls or tables, as in Homage to the Romantic Ballet (1942). His compartmentalized boxes, such as Multiple Cubes (1946–48), led to other works, as seen in the Eclipse (c. 1960–62) and the Clay Pipe (c. 1962) series. He is considered the master of miniature worlds that become magic reincarnations of the past.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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