Collage comes from the french word “coller” to glue.
The idea of cutting and pasting to make a picture is not new. It existed in folk art, especially in the 19th century in scrap books and decoupage. Here are two screens made by Lord Byron the poet, marking his love of the illegal (at the time) profession of bare fisted boxing.
Collage was born in modern times with Picasso and Braque’s use of it in their Cubist paintings.Collage gave Picasso and Braque readymade bold and clear shapes to work with. Shapes that were symbols of industrial mass production, newsprint, packaging, wallpaper, labels, menus.
Collage artists used these discarded and found objects and waste papers, as symbols of disposable culture and later it came to be associated with propaganda, mass production and commerce. After W.W.1 typography gained political significance for collage. The Italian Futurists made their manifestos with found papers and objects. Collage and poetry came to be strongly connected with avant garde artists. The Russians artists of the Bolshevik revolution used collage in a major way. Posters and photo montage carried the revolution message to the public.
Collage was turned into a medium comparable to painting, by Kurt Schwitters. He made it an aesthetic art form as well as seeing it’s playful side. Like finding the papers, then deciding what to cut, playing around with them, until it all fits into some pleasing shape.
Contempory artists like John Stezaker, who have taken the elements of collage into printmaking. Collages,that I made recently with images found on a trip to Spain, where I collected sweet papers, concert catalogues, museum guides and glossy fashion magazines.
The Russian collage is from the State Russian Musuem. All other images are from Robert Hughes “The Shock of the New”. John Stezaker image from Artscribe magazine.