Week 4 – Artist – Joseph Cornell

“Beauty should be shared for it enhances our joys. To explore its mystery is to venture towards the sublime.”
“Beauty should be shared for it enhances our joys.
To explore its mystery is to venture towards the sublime.” ~ Joseph Cornell


Joseph Cornell was in the art scene from the 1940’s until his death in 1972. Cornell created a new kind of art that wasn’t seen before. He made boxes with multiple parts to the art. He found things and brought them together. Charles Simic wrote in a monograph that:

“Somewhere in the city of New York there are four or five still-unknown objects that belong together. Once together they’ll make a work of art. That’s Cornell’s premise, his metaphysics, and his religion” ~ Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornellby: Charles Simic

Through his pieces of art, Cornell was able to find smaller beauties in life rather than the larger and better known arts of life. This helps to show the importance of the little details and the concept that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Cornell’s Life

“Beauty should be shared for it enhances our joys. To explore its mystery is to venture towards the sublime.” ~ Joseph Cornell

Joseph Cornell led an interesting life for an artist. Throughout his whole life he was extremely shy and this led him to becoming very isolated from the world. He held a number of jobs to support himself and his younger brother who suffered cerebral palsy including working as a salesman (which he lost during the Great Depression) and a textile designer. Though he lacked a formal education, Cornell was very well read and immersed in the culture of New York City. After his boxed art premiered in an exhibit in The Museum of Modern Art in 1936, his work was instantly known. His boxed works were then regularly included in art exhibits and sold to museums or individuals. Though he did slow down his art in his later years, Cornell never did come to a complete stop. He stopped making new boxes though he had sometimes took apart and reconstructed some of his boxed works, but other than that he continued to work with collages. Cornell died due to heart failure a few days past his 69th birthday.


“collage = reality” ~ Joseph Cornell

Soap Bubble Set

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The Hotel Series

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The Aviary Series

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And Me?

Cornell’s work really intrigued me. It is definitely one of a kind and had a great impact on the world of art. With his boxed art, Cornell helped to start the “Pop Art” movement and inspire artists like Andy Warhol. Something I found the most interesting of these works is his use of objects he found. While other artists may make collages of a similar kind, Cornell would repurpose items he had found, instead of getting new items and considering the others trash. To me that brings a new depth to the art. Seemingly old and worthless items found on the ground or in the street have been made into beautiful pieces of art that changed the whole art scene. It’s always interesting to me when I find The Butterfly Effect take place because I then stop and think about the smaller details or events that I would have that I wouldn’t worry about and remember to give them more recognition than I typically would.

“Shadow boxes become poetic theater or settings wherein are metamorphosed the elements of a childhood pastime. The fragile, shimmering globules become the shimmering but more enduring planets—a connotation of moon and tides—the association of water less subtle, as when driftwood pieces make up a proscenium to set off the dazzling white of sea foam and billowy cloud crystallized in a pipe of fancy.”




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