Grand Hotel de la Boule D'Or


Joseph Cornell ( American, 1903 - 1972 )

early 1950s
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General Description

With his "shadow boxes," simple box constructions containing such objects as seashells, bottles, cordial glasses, driftwood, maps, photographs, and surrealist-inspired collages, the reclusive and reticent Joseph Cornell created a private world of transcendent poetic power. He made these intimate private universes his home in Queens, New York, where from 1929 on, he lived with his family. Although he had no formal schooling in art, Cornell cultivated a taste for French literature and a lifelong passion for symbolist painters such as Odilon Redon and the poets Charles Baudelaire and Stéphane Mallarmé. He had contact during the 1930s with the artistic climate in New York, where many of the city's artists and Europe's expatriate artists frequented the few avant-garde galleries. At the Julien Levy Gallery, Cornell became involved with many painters and writers connected with the surrealist movement in the United States before and during World War II. In 1937 he was included in the seminal exhibition "Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism" at New York's Museum of Modern Art.

Throughout his productive career, which included experimentation with film, Cornell investigated motifs such as hotels, constellations, bees, and Renaissance paintings of children. In the shadow box Grand Hôtel de la Boule d'Or, letterheads of various hotels and a photographic reproduction of a drawing, The Artist's Daughter, by Jusepe de Ribera, are collaged on the front of aged, faded blue wood; on the back he collaged pages from a French anthology, "Oeuvres Diverses." With grace and subtlety, Cornell combines the everyday and the extraordinary to evoke a Proustian, dreamlike world devoted to old places and possessions—the remembrance of things past.

Excerpt from

Suzanne Weaver, "Grand Hôtel de la Bould d'Or," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Charles Venable (New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 1997), 273.