Hotel Theatricals: Collage Homage to Joseph Cornell


(As performed by the uncles of Monsieur Phot)

An homage to Joseph Cornell.

In 1933, inspired by a handful of unrelated 19th century stereoscope slides, the American sculptor and collagist Joseph Cornell wrote a film scenario titled Monsieur Phot. Cornell was at the beginning of his career as an artist, and experimenting with several different media, including collage and box assemblage. Monsieur Phot was a delicately poetic, surrealistic, and humorous combination of scenes and adventures, within an elegant hotel, involving the fictional 19th century photographer of the title.

Hotel Theatricals (2011). Digital collage created & copyright © by Eric Edelman. All rights reserved.

Cornell loved the movies. Although the technical and logistic challenges that would have been involved in his filming Monsieur Phot were at that time beyond his ability to solve by himself, he may already have begun collaging or splicing together the abandoned reels of film footage that he found in the trash or purchased in junk shops. A few years later, Cornell would use this “cut-and-paste” technique to create his first (and most extensive) collage film, Rose Hobart, from the discarded reels of a copy of East of Borneo, a C-grade jungle adventure movie of the early 1930s.

In 1940, Cornell created his box construction Object (Hotel Theatricals by the grandson of Monsieur Phot Sunday Afternoons), with sixteen compartments painted black and red; each of fifteen of the compartments is backed by a photograph of a young man in 19th century dress in a different pose, as part of  a series of connected exercise, dance, or pantomime movements in each row of compartments. Cornell pasted typewritten humorous titles below each row: “Jacob wrestling with the angel,” “The visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon,” “The finding of Moses in the bulrushes,” and “The triumph of Galatea.” The arrangement of the photographs gives an impression of frames of film taken from an early silent movie.

In the spirit of this gentle yet solemn humor, this Hotel Theatricals collage is humbly and gratefully dedicated to the memory of Joseph Cornell, and to his work.

(All artwork & descriptions created & copyright © by Eric Edelman. All rights reserved.)

{ 35 comments… add one }

  • bethere2day w/Linky July 26, 2011, 4:51 pm

    Wonderful 😉

    Have a great WW!

    • Eric Edelman July 27, 2011, 12:58 pm

      Thanks! I hope you have a fine WW as well.

  • PippaD @ A Mothers Ramblings July 26, 2011, 5:13 pm

    I knew about Joseph Cornell before I came here! Now feeling smug!

    • Eric Edelman July 27, 2011, 12:59 pm

      Excellent, Pippa! It’s always a pleasure to talk with folks who know him and his work. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a nice comment!

  • PippaD @ Pippa World July 26, 2011, 5:16 pm

    I wonder what would happen if he were to start making films today?

    • Eric Edelman July 27, 2011, 1:02 pm

      He’d probably just go wild doing it. There’s so much we can readily do today that he couldn’t have done then. What a wonderful speculation: to imagine what would have come pouring out of his imagination……

  • Goign Nowhere Fast! w/Linky July 26, 2011, 5:20 pm


    • Eric Edelman July 27, 2011, 1:02 pm

      Thanks for your visit and the kind comment!

  • Yakini @ThePrissyMommy July 26, 2011, 6:03 pm

    I love the vibrant colors used! This is such a neat picture.

    • Eric Edelman July 27, 2011, 1:03 pm

      Thanks very much, Yakini! It was fun to do.

  • Comedy Plus July 26, 2011, 6:21 pm

    Way cool and actually he was way ahead in the long run. I love it.

    Have a terrific WW. 🙂

    • Eric Edelman July 27, 2011, 1:05 pm

      He was way ahead of his time — so much so that he shaped the present time in subtle ways that we’re often unaware of. Thanks, & have a great WW.

  • Just Winging It w/Linky July 26, 2011, 7:16 pm

    Cool looking picture.

    • Eric Edelman July 27, 2011, 1:06 pm

      Thanks for your kind comment!

  • Mom Caboodle w/Linky July 26, 2011, 8:39 pm
  • Marta July 26, 2011, 10:09 pm

    Now I SEE.

    • Eric Edelman July 27, 2011, 1:06 pm

      Cornell is an eye-opener, all right….

  • Simply Delicious July 26, 2011, 10:28 pm

    Nice work.

    My entry is here.

    • Eric Edelman July 27, 2011, 1:08 pm

      Thanks! Your page is simply delicious!

  • Janice July 26, 2011, 10:34 pm

    I’ll have to read up a bit more on this one!

    • Eric Edelman July 27, 2011, 1:12 pm

      Cornell’s well worth the read….. Try Deborah Solomon’s book UTOPIA PARKWAY: THE LIFE & WORK OF JOSEPH CORNELL, accompanied by one of the exhibition catalogues on his work: Dore Ashton’s A JOSEPH CORNELL ALBUM or Kynaston McShine et al, JOSEPH CORNELL.

  • AussiePomm July 26, 2011, 10:50 pm

    WOW… Great image, and words…

    Mines up as well at AussiePomm – Sharp

    Have a great WW!!

    • Eric Edelman July 27, 2011, 1:17 pm

      Thanks for your visit and your comment! I’ve just visited yours — cool picture!

  • Windshield Rider with ***LINKY*** July 27, 2011, 2:10 am

    I love the picture!

    • Eric Edelman July 27, 2011, 1:17 pm

      Thanks very much! Have a great WW.

  • EdT. - linky July 27, 2011, 4:51 am

    Looks like the “eyes” have it today!

    Happy WW!


    • Eric Edelman July 27, 2011, 1:18 pm

      And every day! I’ve always kept an eye open for interesting stuff….. Thanks for your visit and your comment!

  • Men's health July 28, 2011, 2:00 am

    Hi. it is amazing story. Thanks for sharing

    • Eric Edelman July 30, 2011, 11:59 am

      Thanks! I’m happy that you enjoyed it.

  • Tomas July 28, 2011, 4:34 am

    Thank you for this wonderful post. It not only expanded my horizons but enabled me to recognize oneself in the representatives of the other world too. So you as if bridged USA to Lithuania. Thank you. Plus I enjoyed your dedication greatly – your respect of others portrayed you the best and gave us all great visual lesson. Thanks once again.
    Respectfully yours
    Tomas Karkalas

    • Eric Edelman July 30, 2011, 11:57 am

      Thank you, Tomas, for your visit and your warm comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Cornell was one of the great masters — along with René Magritte and Max Ernst — who first inspired me to become a visual artist. So, in a sense, he commands my respect; and gratitude is also due him for the lessons he has taught me, lessons that continue to this day. Thank you once again for your warm response to Cornell’s influence!

  • Olivia August 10, 2011, 8:30 am


    • Eric Edelman August 10, 2011, 2:50 pm

      Thank you very much!

  • Bobby August 11, 2011, 12:15 am

    That totally reminds me of “Yellow Submarine” the movie, haha. Very cool 🙂

    • Eric Edelman August 13, 2011, 5:46 pm

      Thanks! It was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid. I think I saw it about nine times.

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