Joseph Cornell

American, 1903–1972


Widely considered one of the seminal American artists of the 20th century, Joseph Cornell pioneered assemblage through his boxed constructions and collages. He is best known for his “shadow boxes” made from found materials such as marbles, toys, seashells, and other bric-a-brac obtained in souvenir shops, penny arcades, and trash heaps. Interests in 19th century Romantic literature, ballet, the Surrealism of Max Ernst, childhood experiences, and the cinema coalesced in Cornell’s allegorically charged work, which would influence generations of contemporary artists. Toward the Blue Peninsula (1953) is among his most recognizable works, which he made drawing inspiration from a view of the night sky in Emily Dickinson’s bedroom and a passage of her poetry. At once figurative and abstract, the box consists of a partially caged, empty space and a window onto a twilight sky.

Career Highlights
Learn more about artist insights.
High auction record
$8m, Christie's, 2014
Solo show at a major institution
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and 3 more
Group show at a major institution
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and 6 more
Collected by a major institution
Tate, and 2 more
Reviewed by a major art publication
Artforum, and 3 more
Included in a major biennial
Venice Biennale International Exhibition, and 1 more
Shows Featuring Joseph Cornell
Articles Featuring Joseph Cornell
The Romantic Gestures of 7 Famous Artist Couples
Apr 17th, 2019
How Joseph Cornell’s Surrealistic Sculptures Transformed 20th Century Art
May 2nd, 2018
How Joseph Cornell, Barbara Kruger, and 8 Other Artists Subsidized Their Art
Aug 14th, 2015
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