John Ashbery

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John Ashbery
Late for School
Paper collage.
12 1/2 x 8 inches (31.8 x 20.3 cm)
Gift of David K. Kermani, from the Collection of John Ashbery.

Throughout his life, the poet John Ashbery showed a deep engagement with the visual arts. Less well known than his poems are the collages he created, beginning in the 1940s, under the influence of Max Ernst and other Surrealist antecedents. Late for School is one of the earliest, made while Ashbery was a student at Harvard. Combining illustrations from nineteenth-century German children's books, he imagined the unsettling story of a boy who leaves for school one morning and returns home with his head changed into that of a bird, to the dismay of his little sisters. The collage aesthetic, with its surprising juxtapositions, offered an important model of composition for Ashbery's poetry.

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