* 1903 Nyack, New York
† 1972 New York
Joseph Cornell is one of the most important American object artists of the 20th century. He combines Surrealism with stylistic elements of Constructivism.
Joseph Cornell was born in Nyack/New York on Christmas Eve in 1903. Joseph Cornell was born into a sophisticated family, however, he had to teach arts himself. In 1932, already at the age of 30, Joseph Cornell began to paint out of plain curiosity. Surrealism, or the art of Max Ernst to be more precise, had quite some influence on him. The same year Joseph Cornell was able to participate in the "Surrealist Group Show" in New York (Gallery Julien Levy). Subsequently Joseph Cornell met the New York circle of surrealists.
Soon Joseph Cornell made first collages and assemblages such as box objects that show Marcel Duchamp and Kurt Schwitters as source of inspiration. Joseph Cornell's object art was soon fueled by his passion for collecting: For hours on end Joseph Cornell browsed New York's small antiquity and second hand shops on his search for suitable objects. Joseph Cornell presented his findings in glass cases, the "boxes", and arranged them in a clear, aestethically appealing and symbolically increased manner. Neo-dada and Pop Art can be regarded as successors of Joseph Cornell's art.
In the 1960s Joseph Cornell became fully established with his poetic object art. A large retrospective, shown at the Pasadena Art Museum and the New York Guggenheim Museum in 1967 delivered proof thereof. In 1968 and 1972 Joseph Cornell participated at the documenta shows in Kassel.
In 1972, the year of documenta 5, Joseph Cornell died in New York.