Artists: The Compulsive Cabinetmaker

In one sense, the manufacture of art is packaging the world. In the process, landscape, bric-a-brac and dreams may end up bundled together like tiny attics whose contents are reminiscent of the character of mankind. Joseph Cornell is just such an archivist, boxing trinkets that Huckleberry Finn might have put in his pockets, together with talismans as portentous as astronomical charts.

As hermetic in his life as he is in his art, Cornell has kept himself and his work so aloof from the world for so long that he has become more a...

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