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Definition: Cornell from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

Joseph Cornell 1903–1972 Am. artist

Summary Article: Cornell, Joseph
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

US assemblage artist. Cornell's art consisted of collecting ephemera in junkshops, which then gained power by their juxtaposition in a box or display-case (termed ‘magic peep holes’), expressing the ‘endlessly mysterious processes of the mind’. He described the process of collecting materials ‘metaphysics of ephemera’. Although he never left his native New York, and never even moved house, his best works convey a sense of unexpected beauty (‘intangible visitations’).

Cornell was influenced by the European surrealists, and first exhibited with them in a New York gallery in the 1930s. His constructions display such varied items as birds' eggs, photographs, wine glasses, and dolls' heads, creating a highly personal ‘theatre’ of memory and nostalgia, with references to literature, art history, music, and dance.

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