Joseph Cornell  (American, 1903-1972) 

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Joseph Cornell (American, 1903–1972) is best known for his Modernist assemblages, experimental films, and his association with the Surrealist group of avant-garde artists. Cornell was born in Nyack, NY, and his family moved to Queens, NY, when he was 12 after his father’s death. Cornell attended Philips Academy, in Andover, MA, for three years before returning to Queens, where he lived for the rest of his life. He worked a number of different jobs after attending school, ranging from designing textiles to selling refrigerators. During this time, he began to create boxes and toys for his brother, who had cerebral palsy and who lived with Cornell his entire life.

Cornell was keenly interested in opera, ballet, and fine arts; in the 1920s, he began making sculptural boxes, collages, and assemblages and. In the early 1930s, he then stated collecting found objects and juxtaposing them in boxes behind glass. He would often scour thrift stores for objects and categorize them into particular themes, embracing them as aesthetic and evocative remnants of the past. In 1931, Cornell met several Surrealist artists at the Julian Levy Gallery in New York City and, while never a part of the circle himself, he exhibited with them several times, including at the landmark Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism exhibition. His shadow boxes and assemblage works revolved around themes of birds, travel, movie personas, observatories, the Medici family, and other subjects throughout the 1940s and 1950s. By the 1960s, Cornell was concentrating more heavily on collage works and revisited his older assemblages, adding further found objects and ephemera to them in imaginative works documenting his own emotions and memories. Cornell has had several retrospectives, including at the Pasadena Art Museum, CA, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, NY, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA. Cornell died in 1973 at his home in Queens, at 70 years old.

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Joseph Cornell, The Human Thermostat

 

Joseph Cornell
The Human Thermostat
circa 1960

Hollis Taggart Galleries
Joseph Cornell, Untitled (Sand Box)

 

Joseph Cornell
Untitled (Sand Box)
circa 1955

Hollis Taggart Galleries
Joseph Cornell, Untitled (Hotel Night-Sky)

 

Joseph Cornell
Untitled (Hotel Night-Sky)
1950-1952

Vivian Horan Fine Art
Joseph Cornell, The Human Thermostat

 

Joseph Cornell
The Human Thermostat
circa 1960

Bernard Jacobson Gallery
Joseph Cornell, Hotel Andromeda

 

Joseph Cornell
Hotel Andromeda
1954

Sprüth Magers Berlin London
Joseph Cornell, Les Trois Mousquetaires

 

Joseph Cornell
Les Trois Mousquetaires
circa 1948

Richard L. Feigen & Co.
Joseph Cornell, Renée Jeanmaire (Zizi) in Carmen, ballet

 

Joseph Cornell
Renée Jeanmaire (Zizi) in Carmen, ballet
1946-1949

Richard L. Feigen & Co.
Joseph Cornell, Untitled (celestial box with pipe, glass and ball)

 

Joseph Cornell
Untitled (celestial box with pipe, glass and ball)
circa 1955

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery
Joseph Cornell, The Smile in the Gift Shop

 

Joseph Cornell
The Smile in the Gift Shop
circa 1960

Alan Brown Gallery
Past auction results (437)  View All
Joseph Cornell, Mathematics in Nature

 

Joseph Cornell
Mathematics in Nature, 1964
oil, pencil and paper collage on masonite

 

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Joseph Cornell, Orbit of Neptune

 

Joseph Cornell
Orbit of Neptune, 1963
graphite, oil and paper collage on paper laid on panel

 

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Joseph Cornell, The Nearest Star, an Allegory of Time

 

Joseph Cornell
The Nearest Star, an Allegory of Time, 1962
mixed media painted box construction w/wood, glass, metal chain, metal ring, printed paper, nails and postage stamps

 

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1903   Born: in Nyack, NY
1917 - 1921   Studies at the Phillips Academy, Andover, MA
1972   Died: in Flushing, NY
2012   Automaton, Galerie Buchholz, Cologne, Germany (group)
2008   Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA (solo)
Selections from the collection of Helga and Walther Lauffs, Zwirner & Wirth, New York, NY
2007   Joseph Cornell, Jirí Kolár, Pavel Zoubok Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Cosmologies, James Cohan Gallery, New York, NY
2006   Andromeda Hotel: The Art of Joseph Cornell, Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY (solo)
Surrealism - Theater of the Mind, Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, PA
2005   Joseph Cornell - Boxes and Collages, L&M Arts, New York, NY (solo)
Mapping Space, MAM - Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL
2004   Under $2,000 Albers < Zaugg, Brooke Alexander Editions, New York, NY
2003 - 2004   Joseph Cornell at the Hudson River Museum, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY (solo)
2003   Joseph Cornell - Collages, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA (solo)
Joseph Cornell Collages, Jonathan Novak Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
2002 - 2003   Joseph Cornell: Toys, Objects, Box Constructions, Collages, Allan Stone Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
2002   The Spirit of Joseph Cornell, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY (solo)
Collage - Abstract Expressionist & Pop, Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York, NY
2001   About Objects, The RISD Museum, Providence, RI
2000   Inside out: reality or fiction?, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, NY
1999   Joseph Cornell, A Memoir, Palo Alto Art Center, Palo Alto, CA (solo)
Surrealism - The Two Private Eyes, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
1998   A Sense for Scale II. The Art of the Miniature, The Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, OH
1970   Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (solo)
1967   Dada, Surrealism, and their Heritage, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1966   An Exhibition of Works by Joseph Cornell, Pasadena Museum of Art, Pasadena, CA (solo)
1966   Retrospective, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY (solo)
1962   Retrospective, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (solo)
1961   The Art of Assemblage, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1953   Annual Survey Exhibition of American Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1952   Fifteen Americans, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1949   Work inspired by the ballet, La Lanterne Magique du Ballet Romantique, Hugo Gallery, New York, NY
1939   Julien Levy Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1936   Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1935   American Painting and Sculpture of the 18th, 19th, & 20th Centuries, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT
1932   Surréalisme, Julien Levy Gallery, New York, NY
Julien Levy Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
  SELECTED PUBLIC COLLECTIONS:
  Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland
The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX
Tate Gallery, London, UK
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, Spain
2008    Wechsler, Jeffrey and Townsend Ludington. Image in the Box: From Cornell to Contemporary. New York, NY: Hollis Taggart Galleries, 2008 (catalogue)
2007    Hartigan, Lynda Roscoe. Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007.
1967    Waldman, Diane. Joseph Cornell. New York, NY: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1967 (catalogue)
1966    Hopps, Walter, James Demetrion, preface; Fairfield Porter. An Exhibition of Works by Joseph Cornell. Pasadenam CA: Pasadena Art Museum, 1966 (catalogue)