The Easel

Joseph Cornell: how the reclusive artist spread his wings

When reticent Joseph Cornell came across a painting by Juan Gris – the master of analytical cubism – it really struck a chord. Cornell subsequently created over 20 of his art boxes, his “poetic theatres”, in homage to that one Gris work. Why do most include the image of a cockatoo? Many objects in his assemblages are odd. Perhaps, as one critic mused, it’s “the emblem of a presence too elusive or vast to be enclosed in a box”