Tamara H. Fox

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Beard, Dorathea K.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

School of Art


Cornell; Joseph; Artists--United States; Symbolism in art; Birds in art


My thesis examines some of the possible symbolic meaning attached to bird images in the box constructions and collages of American artist Joseph Cornell (1903-1972). Bird images, though figuring prominently in Cornell's work throughout his lifetime, are either not addressed in the literature on Cornell or are attributed rather universal symbolism not necessarily based on any information about the artist or provided by the artist. This is largely due to the fact that primary source materials were not available until after the artist died. Cornell did not like to give interviews, and prior to his death the most information available was found in the catalog for his one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art. In order to unravel the special significance of the most frequently used birds, several sources were examined: his personal writings, his sources of inspiration, and his working techniques. I examine songbirds, owls, swans, parrots, cockatoos, the Empty Aviary works, and his Dovecote series, and present information that provides the possibilities of symbolism for each.


Includes bibliographical references.


viii, 147 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type