Collage Art
History of Papier Colle in Fine Arts: Influence on Assemblage.
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Contemporary Collage (2010)
Made with cigarette butts.
By Dan Mountford.


Fruit Dish and Glass (1913)
by Georges Braque, who with
Picasso invented collage and
papier colle.

Collage Art

In modern art, the word 'collage' describes a composition made up of a variety of assorted materials - typically, printed matter like newspaper clippings, photographs, pieces of graphic or digital art, oddments of textile or fabric, and perhaps solid objects - all glued to a sheet of paper or board or canvas. Collage is associated above all with the modern art movements of Cubism and Dada, as well as modern practitioners of assemblage art like the American Pop-artist Robert Rauschenberg. The theory and practice of collage art is now taught as a Minor degree subject in some of the best art schools in Europe and America.

Collage in Cubism

Early twentieth century exponents of collage were the two Cubist pioneers Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. To begin with, they developed Analytical Cubism, reflecting Picasso's artistic philosophy that a head simply consisted of two eyes, a nose, and a mouth, which can be laid out in any way the artist desired. Analytical Cubist paintings duly became more and more fragmented and their content increasingly abstract. Then, about 1912, Picasso and Braque developed a new form of painting known as Synthetic Cubism - a method which imported first words, then "real" elements, like newspaper cuttings, tickets, scraps of wallpaper and labels, to represent themselves. Another method used was papier collé, or stuck paper, which Braque used in his collage Fruit Dish and Glass (1913).

These forms of Cubist collage, coincided with early three dimensional compositions using "found objects", such as the controversial "readymades" by the Dada artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968).


Fredlyst With Yellow Artifical Bone
(1940) Collage by the celebrated
Dada artist Kurt Schwitters.

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The Entire City (1934) by Max Ernst,
the German Surrealist artist who
created a series of cityscapes,
using mixed-media techniques
of collage and frottage.

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Dada-style Collage

The Dada movement started in Zurich, Switzerland, during World War I, as an artistic revolt against the conventional values which had caused such horror. After the war, Dada developed into Surrealism in Paris and Cologne. Collage was a particular technique of this anti-art movement. The small "Merzbilder" collages of the German Dada artist Kurt Schwitters were meticulously constructed from street rubbish, to reflect a world gone mad. Max Ernst another German Dada and Surrealist artist also produced a number of collaged images, and incorporated frottage (rubbed patterns) in his fantasy art. Wolf Vostell invented decollages, that is the opposite of constructed collages using fragments of posters and other 'found' materials. Other famous painters who utilized collage included Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Picabia, and the American abstract expressionist Robert Motherwell.

Modern Fine Art Collage (Mixed-Media)

Since then, collage has been used by many other artists: like the Dutch abstract painter Piet Mondrian, the UK artist John Walker and the American Jane Frank (known for their canvas collages). Lee Krasner (1908-84), the wife of Jackson Pollock the inventor of "action painting", also created collages assembled from pieces of her own discarded paintings. Neo-Dada artists including Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg also developed modern forms of collage and other mixed-media works.

During the late twentieth century, the concept of collage broadened and spread far beyond the visual arts to include musical and architectural arrangements as well as photographic collage (photomontage), assemblage and crafts like decoupage. Furthermore, the widespread use of the contemporary art term "mixed media" has effectively superceded the word "collage" in fine art, as it includes the glued assembly of objects on a canvas. One of the most talented contemporary collage artists was the New Yorker David Wojnarowicz (1954-92), whose works have appeared in some of the best galleries of contemporary art in America.

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