Americana: Natural Philosophy (What Makes the Weather?), ca 1959
Americana: Natural Philosophy (What Makes the Weather?) is one variant in a series of collages featuring the young boy in John Singleton Copley's 1771 painting, Daniel Crommelin Verplanck. Joseph Cornell takes the boy out of his home environment and transposes him into a Western landscape, with the natural wonders of the American frontier just over his shoulder. Cornell considered Copley to be one of the first "American artists who worked out their own style of seeing." While paying homage to a great artist of the past, Cornell brings weight to the collage by juxtaposing Copley's boy and the glowing landscape with cutouts from children's books that illustrate scientific phenomena like rainbows and circumpolar constellations. The collage is a merger of Cornell's fantasy and reality, and a contemporary response to the technological advancements and exciting discoveries of the Space Age.