Joseph Cornell and Astronomy
A Case for the Stars
Kirsten Hoving


Joseph Cornell and Astronomy provides an in-depth look at one artist's intense fascination with the science of astronomy. Joseph Cornell (1903-72) has often been viewed as a recluse, isolated in his home on Utopia Parkway, lost in the fairy tales and charming objects of his collages and assemblage boxes. Less commonly known has been Cornell's vested and serious interest in the history of astronomy and the cutting-edge discoveries made during his own lifetime. An avid reader, he amassed a library of books and articles about science and astronomy, and his reflections about these subjects had a direct impact on his art.

This book explores why astronomy captivated Cornell, and considers hundreds of his works--found-footage films, three-dimensional space-object boxes, enigmatic collages, and cosmic ephemera--that contain references to astronomical phenomena. Kirsten Hoving considers Cornell's enormous collection of astronomy materials, ranging from eighteenth-century books to recent works; newspaper and magazine articles that Cornell clipped and sorted; and diary entries of his observations while stargazing in his backyard. She examines how Cornell explored many dimensions of astronomy through his identities as a Christian Scientist and surrealist artist.

Unfolding Cornell's work with depth and breadth, Joseph Cornell and Astronomy offers a convincing and original appreciation of this intriguing American artist.

Kirsten Hoving is the Charles A. Dana Professor of the History of Art and Architecture at Middlebury College. She is the author of Fables in Frames: La Fontaine and Visual Culture in Nineteenth-Century France.