IntroductionA picture or design created by adhering such basically flat elements as newspaper, wallpaper, printed text and illustrations, photographs, cloth, string, etc., to a flat surface, when the result becomes three-dimensional, and might also be called a relief sculpture / construction / assemblage.
DefinitionCollage is an art production technique where the resulting piece is an assemblage of different forms or pieces to create a new whole. The term is derived from the French word ‘coller’, which means ‘to glue’. Literally speaking, creating a collage is putting things together to develop an artwork.
HistoryIt was believed that the techniques of collage making started as early as 200 BC when China invented the paper. However, the actual evidence of this art form wasn’t seen until after the 10thcentury, when Japanese calligraphers glued paper on surfaces when writing the text for their poems. But strictly speaking, the formal use of collage as an art technique emerged only after the 1900s. Art historians associated its popularity to coincide with the early stages of modernism. 1
As An Art StyleThe collage technique in painting was first observed among Cubist painters Pablo Picasso and George Braque. Picasso used this technique on his oil paintings while Braque applied it to his charcoal drawings. Braque cut out pieces of paper and attached them to his drawings. Picasso, on the other hand, glued a patch of oilcloth with a chair cane design onto his canvas. He called it the ‘Still Life with Chair Caning’.2 Braque, on the other hand, called his the ‘Fruitdish and Glass’. Since then, many surrealist artists followed suit and made an extensive use of this art technique in several of their works.
Aside from canvases, this technique can also be applied on wood, as what Kurt Schwitters has done in his 1920 artwork entitled ‘Merz Picture with Candle’. Soon, there became many other types and variations of collage developed, one of which is the Decoupage. It is a special type of technique described as the craft of placing a picture onto an object for decoration. Henri Matisse applied it to his 1952 painting ‘Blue Nude II’.
Then there is also the photomontage technique, where the resulting artwork is made out of photographs or parts of it. A good example of this is Richard Hamilton and John McHale’s 1956 artwork which they called ‘Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?’ This piece is also considered as one of the earliest works of Pop Art.
Famous ExamplesAnother famous work of Pablo Picasso that uses the collage technique is called the ‘Head (Tete)’. Here, he cut and pasted colored paper, charcoal,and gouache on paperboard. The piece is currently displayed at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.
Other notable examples are Kurt Schwitters’ ‘Das Undbild’ (1919); Hannah Hoch’s ‘Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife’, also created in 1919 and is now displayed at Berlin’s Staatlich Museum; and ‘The Sunblind’ (1914) by Juan Gris which is displayed at the Tate Gallery.
Famous ArtistsThe other famous artists whose has been a strong user of the collage technique are Cecil Touchon, Peter Blake, Richard Hamilton, Henri Matisse, and Jane Frank, among others.
Most of the elements adhered in producing most collages are "found" materials. Introduced by the Cubist artists, this process was widely used by artists who followed, and is a familiar technique in contemporary art.