Joseph Cornell
American, 1903-1972
High auction record
$8m, Christie's, 2014
Collected by major museums
Tate, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Selected exhibitions
Grand Salon: The Visionary Eye of Allan Stone,
Allan Stone Projects
In the Absence of Color: Artists Working in Black and White,
Hollis Taggart
Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust,
Royal Academy of Arts

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.

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