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Joseph Cornell letters to Susanna De Maria Wilson and other papers, 1963-1994, undated

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Cornell (Joseph) Letters to Susanna De Maria Wilson and other papers
Series I. Joseph Cornell letters to Susanna De Maria Wilson, 1963-1968, undated 146 items (33 letters in 34 folders, 1 painted wood box)
Included are thirty-three postmarked letters sent by Joseph Cornell from his house in Flushing, Queens, to Susanna De Maria Wilson at her various addresses in New York City. The letters begin in 1963 and continue until 1968, but the prevalent portion, about half of the letters, dates from 1963.
In addition to Cornell's letters to De Maria Wilson, the postmarked envelopes also contain other items such as notes, greeting cards, or clippings from magazines, which are often inserted in smaller envelopes, wrapped in tissue paper, stiched or clipped together. Frequently, these items are collaged with stamps, seals, foil stickers, and small photographs. Several small objects are included: a bird call whistle, pressed grass, a plastic toy mirror, a piece of perforated metal, and rusty nails.
As stated in the first letter (21 January 1963), Cornell had met De Maria Wilson in the spring of 1962, when the latter was working at MoMA, but did not write her until the start of the following year. The letters document diverse aspects of Cornell's and De Maria Wilson's working relationship. De Maria Wilson was given the task of helping acquire source material for Cornell's collage and assemblage work, and the letters frequently contain directions on where to go, guidance as to what kind of imagery particularly appealed to him, and even samples of images. Sometimes, the letters are purely social in purpose, as in an Easter card sent on 13 April 1963, or in a postcard dated 15 April 1964, thanking her for perfumes. Cornell also shared insight into various aspects of his thought and collage processes. For instance, in a letter dated 28 March 1963, Cornell discusses the mystery of sylphs and sensuality, and in a letter from 5 April 1963 he wrote a lengthy note discussing three dreams. Throughout, the writing is typical of the artist's allusive and laconic style, but there are also surprising moments of humor, as in the humorous card sent on 23 May 1964.
Just important as the discursive or textual content of the letters is their aesthetic composition. The pieces of mail are generally strongly visual in their orientation, and even the more mundane-seeming of the letters and postcards appear to have had stamps affixed with care and for deliberate effect. Many include collaged elements and objects. At times, this could consist simply of the addition of stickers or the pasting on of a cut-out image, but there are also sumptuous demonstrations of Cornell's artistry, as in the collage bouquet of pressed grasses and angels included in an envelope stamped 13 February 1964.
Furthermore, Cornell adapted the collage and assemblage technique to the more temporally ordered sequential mode of reading in the epistolary format, so that any given piece frequently contains multiple envelopes that are then wrapped in tissue paper, stitched or clipped together, producing a layered reading and viewing experience. In short, the letters as a group exist as much as a collection of work on paper or mail art by Cornell as they are an archive of documents.
Included with this series is the painted wood box in which De Maria Wilson stored Cornell's letters at her home. Cornell saw the box in a Manhattan store and asked DeMaria Wilson to purchase it with money he gave her.
In the following descriptions of the letters the name of the addressee is transcribed documenting the various ways Susanna De Maria Wilson was adressed by Cornell.
Arrangement
Arranged chronologically.
box folder
1 1 1963 January 21 8 items
1963 January 21 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope addressed to Mrs. Susanne De Maria, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 21 January 1963, with a five-cent George Washington postage stamp. Inserted is [2] a yellow blank envelope containing [3] a white folded piece of paper, to which is affixed [4] a piece of perforated metal; the folded paper is inscribed in pencil: Back Door in Flushing. Also inserted is [5] a white blank envelope with a broken 1958 Japanese stamp seal, inside which is inserted [6] a paper sleeve containing [7] a swiss warbler bird call whistle. The sleeve has "Made in Japan" printed on one side and instructions on how to use the whistle on the other. Also inserted is [8] an undated letter from the artist to De Maria Wilson.
1 2 1963 February 17 5 items
1963 February 17 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope addressed to De Maria Wilson and stamped along left and upper margins with ten half-cent Benjamin Frankin postage stamps; postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 17 February 1963. Inserted is [2] a folded printed card illustrated with a drawing of a cupid by Francesco Mazzola (called Parmigianino). The card is collaged inside with two small photos of De Maria Wilson's eyes and a tiny heart made of red aluminium foil. Also inserted inside the white envelope is [3] another white envelope from the 1870s with a five-kroner postage stamp. It is addressed in Italian in ink by old hand to Nobil Donna in Roveredo and postmarked in Vezzano in Liguria, Italy, and sealed with a tiny red foil heart and a blue foil dot. Inside this "old" envelope is [4] a note typed on folded pink onionskin paper and a [5] Mona Lisa stamp. The typed note is addressed to de Maria Wilson, signed Anon and dated 14 February 1963.
1 3 1963 February 26 2 items
1963 February 26 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] Oblong yellow envelope, initialed and dated by the artist on the recto and sealed with a stamp lettered in Japanese and illustrated with a picture of a mouse in a mousetrap on the verso. Inside the envelope is a [2] blank onionskin paper with a blue conté rubbing on the recto, stamped with the words Apollinaire's Swan, folded and perforated after the removal of staples.
1 4 1963 March 8 6 items
1963 March 8 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] Blue envelope addressed to De Maria, stamped with one two-cent postage stamp and one three-cent postage stamp, and a decorative stamp with two birds affixed on the verso; postmarked on 8 March 1963. Inserted is [2] a handwritten note on an index card saying "Return pink packet for enrichment & museum times." Stapled to the index card is a [3] small pink envelope containing [4-5] two rusty nails. Also inserted is a [6] folded white paper bag with a blue conté rubbing.
1 5 1963 March 14 6 items
1963 March 14 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope with one one-cent Washington postage stamp and one four-cent Remington stamp, addressed to Mrs. Walter De Maria and postmarked on 14 March 1963. Inserted are [2] a small glassine envelope [3] and a folded yellow paper marked "Postscript" on the verso and with a typed Walt Whitman quote on the recto. Also inserted is [4] a typed-and-handwritten note on white onionskin paper, addressed to De Maria, folded and collaged with a Japanese mouse trap stamp seal (same as in folder 3) and a tiny red foil heart. Also inserted is a [5] blank glassine envelope into which is inserted [6] a sheet of blue paper, folded and with a red foil ampersand sign affixed on top.
1 6 1963 March 20 4 items
1963 March 20 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope addresssed to Mrs. Walter De Maria, with a five-cent postage stamp, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on March 20 1963. Inserted is [2] a printed greeting card with floral illustration by Manville, inside of which is a [3] handwritten personal note on a torn half-sheet onionskin paper and [4] and an "old" letter handwritten in ink and dated "ca. 1849," signed "Jaeger."
1 7 1963 March 22 5 items
1963 March 22 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] Light blue envelope addressed to Mrs. Walter de Maria, with a five-cent postage stamp postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 22 March 1963. Inserted is [2] a letter typed on light blue paper with dragonfly letterhead, stamped "La Salamandre Fin de siècle." Also inserted is a [3] small white envelope, which contains a [4] white card with printed text by Novalis, wrapped in [5] blue tissue.
1 8 1963 March 27 11 items
1963 March 27 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] Blue envelope addressed to Mrs. Walter De Maria, with two five-cent postage stamps, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 27 March 1963. Inserted is [2] a typed note on folded blue paper, which encloses [3] a handwritten note on a white slip of paper; [4] a handwritten note on a Dixons Cafeteria postcard; [5-6] two Jay Bee Magazine Stores business cards; [7] an annotated torn-out page from Rogue magazine; and [8-9] two leaves of onionskin paper with handwritten text, numbered "Sylph #1" and "Sylph #2" and clipped together. Included here are [10] a torn strip from Horticulture magazine and [11] a brown paper bag with a hand-drawn map to a magazine store on 54 W. 42nd street.
1 9 1963 April 1 3 items
1963 April 1 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope addressed to Mrs. Walter De Maria, with two five-cent postage stamps, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 1 April. Inserted is [2] a blue folded paper with handwritten prose titled "Living The Statues Five + Dime" and [3] a blue plastic toy mirror with handle.
1 10 1963 April 5 4 items
1963 April 5 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope, addressed to Mrs. Susanne de Maria, with one one-cent and one four-cent postage stamp, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 5 April 1963. Inserted is [2] a postcard of Time's Square at night; [3] folded blue paper with a handwritten text beginning with the words "three dreams" and hand-marked "correction" on the verso; and [4] another handwritten note on folded blue paper.
1 11 1963 April 8 9 items
1963 April 8 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] Brown clasp envelope with "S. De Maria on self" handwritten in upper right corner. Inserted is [2] a torn white tissue with three inked stamps: five-pointed star, hand with pointing finger and woman's face. Also inserted are a [3] white onionskin paper with a handwritten note and a doodle "via phone S. De Maria"; [4] a folded blue paper sheet with text typed and corrected by hand in black ink, and dated on verso: 4-8-63; [5] folded white onionskin paper with a short typed note, to which is stapled a magazine clipping of a female nude in the desert; [6] a folded blue paper containing [7,8,9] three leaves of illustrations depicting mostly female nudes, torn from magazines. One of the illustrations is hand-marked "Chamber of Seraphs." Typed on the blue paper are the words "no connection with other enclosures."
1 12 1963 April 11 3 items
1963 April 11 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White stapled envelope, addressed to Miss Susanne de Maria, with one one-cent and one four-cent postage stamp, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 11 April 1963. Inserted is [2] a sheet of folded white onionskin paper with a handwritten note captioned "Thanks to Susanne" and "too much for words" and a [3] small color magazine clipping of a dark haired female nude seen from behind and holding up her hair, and a typed note "another better one to follow" on verso.
1 13 1963 April 11 2 items
1963 April 11 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope addressed to Mrs. Walter De Maria, with one five-cent postage stamp, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 11 April 1963. Inserted is [2] an Easter card depicting an angel with a basket of flowers and decorated with two small foil stars, and with an Easter greeting inscribed inside.
1 14 1963 April 12 7 items
1963 April 12 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope, addressed to Mrs. Walter De Maria, with two five-cent postage stamps, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 12 April 1963, and inscribed on verso in pencil "fleeting image returned 2/29/64." Inserted is [2] a piece of corrugated cardboard; [3] a folded yellow onionskin paper with typed notes; and [4-5] a clipped white card with a typed note beginning with the words "early morning benediction of light..." Also inserted are [6] a typed note on a fragment of white onionskin paper, beginning with the words "another dream or vision..."; and [7] a hand-and typewritten note on white paper, titled "Two Girls" and dedicated "For Susanna Good Friday 63."
1 15 1963 April 17 3 items
1963 April 17 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope, addressed to Mrs. Susanne De Maria, with one five-cent postage stamp, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 17 April 1963. Inserted is [2] folded white onionskin paper with a handwritten note beginning with words "I just found a new born may fly" and marked by hand "4-17-63" on the verso, to which is affixed a stapled postage stamp with the image of a beetle. Also inserted is [3] a folded white paper napkin with several handwritten notes.
1 16 1963 June 8 3 items
1963 June 8 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White oblong envelope addressed to Mrs. Susanne De Maria, with one five-cent postage stamp, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 8 June 1963. Inserted is [2] a folded white onionskin paper with a handwritten note, and [3] a strip of five postal stamps depicting birds, from the series "Protect Our Natural Resources."
1 17 1963 December 30 4 items
1963 December 30 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope, addressed to Mrs. Walter de Maria, marked "Personal," with one five-cent postal stamp, and two small Christmas Greetings stamps on verso, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on December 30 1963. Inserted is [2] a folded light blue paper with a handwritten note titled "The Statue of Bronze" and [3] a black-and-white photocopy of the note. Also inserted is [4] a folded white paper with handwritten notes by De Maria Wilson, in which she is interpreting Cornell's note.
1 18 1964 February 13 5 items
1964 February 13 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope addressed to W. De Maria, with one one-cent and two two-cent stamps, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 13 February 1964; with a "Returned" stamp on the recto, and a small piece of white paper with a post office box address for Susanna De Maria Wilson affixed on the verso. Inserted is [2] a playing card with black-and-white close-up image of hair on the recto and an image of a beret and a circle with spheres on the verso. Also inserted is [3] a note on yellowed paper, typed in red ink and handwritten, beginning with the words "regret pressures." Also inserted is [4] a folded blue onionskin paper with a "Calling All Girls" stamp seal, which contains [5] a handmade card decorated with pressed flowers and embossed stickers of cupids.
1 19 1964 March 25 4 items
1964 March 25 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope addressed in red type to Mrs. Walter De Maria, with one one-cent and two two-cent postal stamps, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 25 March 1964, and sealed on the verso with a stamp depicting rabbits. Inserted is [2] an Easter card, and [3] folded yellow onionskin paper with a typed note beginning with words "Deerly Dearly." Also inserted is [4] a torn-off fragment of yellow onionskin paper with a typed note beginning with words "a year ago this time."
1 20 1964 April 15 1 item
1964 April 15 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] A postcard addressed to Mrs. Walter De Maria, with a printed four-cent postal stamp. Handwritten note on verso begins with the words: Thank you for your sweet sending.
1 21 1964 May 23 3 items
1964 May 23 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] Oblong white envelope addressed to Mrs. Susanne De Maria, with a five-cent Gettysburg postal stamp, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 23 May 1964. Inserted is [2] a signed greeting card from the New York World's Fair 1964-1965, and [3] another postcard with image of a Thai pavilion on verso.
1 22 1964? 3 items
1964? (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope addressed to Mrs. Walter de Maria and words "Courtesy of Mrs. Ethe," all in red type. Inserted is [2] a folded white paper with a note in red type, sealed with a rose sticker; and [3] a folded white paper with a note in black type.
1 23 1964 December 3 2 items
1964 December 3 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope addressed to Mrs. Susane De Maria, with a five-cent postage stamp, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on December 3 1964. It has a large yellow stain on its recto. Inserted is [2] a folded white paper with a handwritten note.
1 24 1965 January 6 9 items
1965 January 6 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White oblong envelope addressed to Mrs. Susanne de Maria, with one thirty-cent and one five-cent postal stamp, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 6 January 1965, and stamped "Special Delivery" on both recto and verso. Inserted is [2] a folded white paper with a handwritten note dated "Jan. 6. 65", and [3] a folded blue silk scarf. Also inserted is [4] a note and sketch on brown paper cut from a Stern's shopping bag; [5] a typewritten note on onionskin paper beginning with words "this is from the original day of the deer nymph"; and [6] a small white envelope, which contains [7] a blue tissue wrapped around [8] a white card with printed text by Novalis. The printed card and the blue tissue are held by a [9] metal clip.
box folder
2 1 1965 November 23 2 items
1965 November 23 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] Light blue onionskin paper envelope addressed to Mrs. Walter De Maria, with a five-cent Christmas postage stamp, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on November 23 1965. Inserted is [2] a folded white paper with handwritten notes captioned "vision d'Ondine" and a small color photograph of a man at a snack stand.
2 2 1965 November 29 5 items
1965 November 29 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope addressed to Mrs. Susanne de Maria, with a five-cent Christmas postage stamp, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 29 November 1965. Inserted is [2] a small white envelope addressed to "Susanne & Walter", which contains [3] a handwritten note beginning with the words "In Robert's name." Also inserted is [4] a handwritten letter on white onionskin paper beginning with "Dear Susanne." Also inserted is [5] a card with a small picture of a rose on the outside, and a small picture of a pygmy kingfisher bird, collaged with a rope, on the inside.
2 3 1966 January 4 3 items
1966 January 4 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White oblong envelope addressed to Mrs. Walter de Maria, with a five-cent postage stamp, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 4 January 1966. Inserted is [2] a five dollar money order payable to Mrs. Walter De Maria and dated 8 November 1965 and stapled to [3] folded white onionskin paper with a collage of a small poinsettia stamp and a cut-out illustration of a bird and seed.
2 4 1966 October 9 2 items
1966 October 9 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope addressed to Mrs. Walter de Maria, with a five-cent George Washington postal stamp, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 9 October 1966. Inserted is [2] a handwritten letter beginning with the words "Your tribute is extremely perceptive."
2 5 1966 December 3 3 items
1966 December 3 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope addressed to Mrs. Susanne de Maria, with a five-cent Christmas postal stamp, postmarked Flushing N.Y. on 3 December 1966; with Cornell's printed return address stamp on verso. Inserted is [2] a smaller square-shaped white envelope addressed to Mrs. Susanne de Maria, with a five-cent Christmas postal stamp on its recto and Cornell's printed return address stamp on its verso. It is postmarked 29 November 1966, stamped "Returned to Writer" on its recto, and annotated in pencil "your note comes today thank you" on its verso. Inside the smaller square-shaped envelope is [3] an illustrated Christmas card, inscribed with a handwritten note.
2 6 1967 February 24 4 items
1967 February 24 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope addressed to Mrs. Susanne de Maria, with a five-cent George Washington postal stamp and torn postmark. Inserted is [2] a typed collaged note with caption "ASK TO SEE!" Also inserted is [3] a sheet with duplicate photographs of a girl holding a tambourine, and [4] a sheet with larger negatives for the photographs.
2 7 1967 March 9 3 items
1967 March 9 (digital version available on-site only)

[1] Yellow oblong envelope addressed to Miss Susanne de Maria, with a five-cent George Washington postal stamp and postmarked New York N.Y on 9 March 1967. Inserted is [2] a letter on folded yellow paper, handwritten with a lot of ink splash and [3] a small photograph of two raccoons stapled on it.
2 8-9 1968 July 6 items
1968 July (digital version available on-site only)

[1] White envelope with "Susanna" typed on it, with a six-cent postal stamp and postmarked July 1968. Inserted is [2] a small "Handle With Care" clipping printed in red and white; [3] a small white envelope with a flower bouquet sticker, which contains [4] a folded white tissue sealed with a torn "Fragile" sticker printed in red and white. Inside the tissue are [5] dried grasses. Also inserted is [6] a folded newspaper clipping from Women's Wear Daily that features names of several contemporary artists and authors, including the name of Walter De Maria.
2 10 1968? 5 items
1968? (digital version available on-site only)

[1] Small white envelope addressed to Susanna, with a large six-cent Christmas stamp and a sticker of a fox with Santa's hat holding a wrapped present. Inserted is [2] a card with a handwritten note in red and blue beginning with the words "Thank you for the WARMTH." The card is attached with [3] a clip and [4] blue ribbon to [5] a tag illustrated with a stamp of a potbelly stove.
box
3 Painted wood box, undated 1 item
Painted wood box,: undated

Painted wood box in which De Maria Wilson stored the letters at her home and that Cornell saw in a Manhattan store and De Maria Wislon purchased with money Cornell gave her.


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