Joseph Cornell: A World of Wonder

by Isabella Boorman
26th May 2021 6pm

American artist Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) is best known for his ‘shadow-box’ assemblages. Cornell was born in Nyack, New York, and lived in Flushing, Queens, in the same house on Utopia Parkway throughout his life. Working in a variety of jobs, including a door-to-door textiles salesman, Cornell was a self-taught artist. Apart from a brief stint at boarding school in Massachusetts early on in his life, Cornell never left the city of New York, yet was fascinated by travel. This desire and wanderlust was incorporated richly through his collection of found objects on his daily journeys throughout New York City, including hotel stubs, postcards and found objects, which became the starting point for his box creations.

Living in New York City during World War II, Cornell suddenly found himself in the centre of the art world, with many artists having fled Europe. He built up important and long-lasting friendships with many artists and writers of the time, such as Marcel Duchamp and the Surrealists, and his success as an artist began to grow. In this lecture, Isabella Boorman explores the life and art of Cornell, focusing on key artworks from his artistic career. Following the restrictions placed upon us all due to the Covid-19 pandemic with many of us unable to travel, this lecture explores how the art of Joseph Cornell continues to provide us with a means of artistic escape, and an opportunity to travel into worlds of wonder.


Isabella Boorman is a Curator specialising in twentieth-century art history. She studied art history at The Courtauld Institute of Art and the University of York, and has worked for arts institutions such as the Royal Academy of Arts, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, and the National Museum Wales.

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