Art and Friendship: Joseph Campbell and Angela Gregory in ‘A Dream and a Chisel’

Date of Publication: May 1, 2019

: Nancy L. Penrose

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Joseph Campbell and celebrated artist, Angela Gregory, met while they were both living in Paris, studying at the Sorbonne. Author Nancy L. Penrose details the initial encounters between the two in her book A Dream and a Chisel, as well as the experiences and conversations they shared during the season their lives intersected. While the book offers a much more expansive exploration of the Louisiana sculptor’s life in the years between 1925 and 1928, the discussion around Campbell and the mutual community and culture that he and Gregory shared are crafted with insights about what drew these two important thinkers together.

Selections from the correspondence between the two, as well as recollections from Gregory herself paint a vivid picture of the friendship and meaningful conversations shared between she and Campbell. A fascinating cast of characters, such as Krishnamurti, travel in and out of the narrative, amidst shared lectures, concerts, and evenings on the dance floor.

Penrose creates a portal in the book that allows us to understand what it must have been like to travel through such an exciting and meaningful time in both figures’ lives.

Campbell found himself the subject of Gregory’s artistic endeavors as well. A 1928 drawing of Campbell as well as a bust from the same year are included in the text. While it is clear that Campbell had great impact on Gregory’s life, her impact was no less profound on him. He constantly expresses his gratitude to Gregory in their correspondence with regards to her helping him understand the nuances of particular artists and artistic movements. Many such understandings would later make their way into Campbell’s own work, giving him the background for mythological motifs he saw playing out in artistic traditions throughout history.

A Dream and a Chisel by Angela Gregory and Nancy L. Penrose is available from The University of South Carolina Press (sc.edu/uscpress)

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