Untitled (reclining nude reading by candlelight). Joseph Cornell (American, 1903-1972). Collage. Smithsonian American Art Museum.
A premier assemblagist who elevated the box to a major art form, Joseph Cornell also was an accomplished collagist and filmmaker.
His art has been described as romantic, poetic, lyrical and surrealistic. Self-taught but amazingly sophisticated, he created his first collages, box constructions and experimental films in the 1930s. By 1940, his boxes contained found materials artfully arranged, then collaged and painted to suggest poetic associations inspired by the arts, humanities and sciences.