Collage - A Definition And A Little History
The word collage comes from the French word coller meaning “to glue”. A dictionary definition describes a collage as “a work of formal art made from an assemblage of different forms to create a new whole”. I like this definition because it is succinct and accurate, if not wholly complete. That’s what we do as paper artists we glue things together to make a new whole, a parallel for life. I like those parallels and I look for them often.
Collage has been around for centuries, however it was not until the early 20th century that it made its resurgence. The French painter and sculptor Georges Braque and the infamous Spanish painter (who lived most of his life in France) Pablo Picasso are credited with creating the Cubism movement. Apparently, they co-created the term collage, as it had become a distinctive part of modern art.
Simple collage techniques have been around since the invention of the modern paper making process in China around 200 BC. The beautiful and advanced art approach we know it as today, did not really take hold until the early 1900’s when modernism was taking root. Artists and art lovers were captivated by the use of paper products within and on paintings. Georges Braque began adding wallpaper clippings to his charcoal drawings and Picasso added cut paper to his oil paintings.
Surrealist artists began using collage techniques extensively with magical results. A wonderful example of this, that any paper artist can do, is Cubomania. Cubomania is a surrealist method whereby the artist cuts an image into squares and reassembles them to create a new piece of art. Today, this technique is often done with digital photography and a graphic design program.
Photomontages can, most likely, be seen as the forerunner to digital design. Photomontages are collage made exclusively from cut out photos. Compositing, created with image-editing software, does very much the same thing today. There is an exciting trend happening now in this area. Artists are taking this technology to the limit and, putting themselves under extreme time limitations, create compositions that have elements of paintings, theater, illustration, as well as, graphics to end with a seamless whole image.
Another intense collage technique is called canvas collage. This is an application whereby sections of paintings are cut up and reassembled on another paint canvas. Wood collage became popular in the 1920’s and involves adhering pieces of wood to an existing painting. The wood pieces were usually natural shapes found on beaches and in forests. Wood shavings and carpentry scraps were also used.