Innocence Reproduced: Girlhood in the Art of Joseph Cornell and Henry Darger


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


Visual Studies


American artists Joseph Cornell and Henry Darger approached the subject of girlhood in collage and assemblage projects made during the 1930s-1960s, a period when images of girls were abundant in the popular culture. While most American modernist artists ignored the subject, Cornell and Darger imagined girlhood as an alternative realm in which they could explore identities that did not fit with the values of mainstream American masculinity. By creating elaborate worlds filled with references to girls and girlish domestic crafts, these two artists celebrated the possibilities for the individual imagination in a mass-mediated culture. Although they achieved differing degrees of professional success and tend to be categorized separately in the artistic genres of Surrealism and Outsider Art, this dissertation argues that their work presents an important line of thought developing on the margins of mid-century American culture.