AskDefine | Define collage

Dictionary Definition



1 a paste-up made by sticking together pieces of paper or photographs to form an artistic image; "he used his computer to make a collage of pictures superimposed on a map" [syn: montage]
2 any collection of diverse things; "a collage of memories"

User Contributed Dictionary

see Collage



  • AHD: kō-läzh', kə-läzh'


  1. a picture made by sticking other pictures onto a surface

Related terms


a picture made by sticking other pictures onto a surface

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collage m
  1. collage

Extensive Definition

A collage (From the lang-fr coller, to glue) is a work of formal art, primarily in the visual arts, made from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole. Use of this technique made its dramatic appearance among oil paintings in the early 20th century as an art form of groundbreaking novelty.
An artistic collage work may include newspaper clippings, ribbons, bits of colored or hand-made papers, portions of other artwork, photographs, and such, glued to a piece of paper or canvas.
Techniques of collage were first used at the time of the invention of paper in China around 200 BC. The use of collage, however, remained very limited until the 10th century in Japan, when calligraphers began to apply glued paper, using texts on surfaces, when writing their poems.
The term collage derives from the French "coller" meaning "glue". This term was coined by both Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in the beginning of the 20th century when collage became a distinctive part of modern art.

Collage and modernism

Despite the pre-twentieth-century use of collage-like application techniques, authorities on art history generally do not consider collage, properly speaking, to have emerged until after 1900, in conjunction with the early stages of modernism. For example, the Tate Gallery's online art glossary states flatly that collage "was first used as an artists' technique in the twentieth century." Additionally, the Guggenheim Museum's online art glossary plainly states that Braque and Picasso invented collage — which would obviously imply that any earlier artworks which might technically have anticipated collage were nevertheless not collage. Collage, according to these sources, is an artistic concept associated with the beginnings of modernism and entails much more than the idea of gluing something onto something else. The glued-on patches which Braque and Picasso added to their canvases "collided with the surface plane of the painting." This was part of a methodical reexamination of the relation between painting and sculpture, and these new works "gave each medium some of the characteristics of the other," according to the Guggenheim essay. Furthermore, these chopped-up bits of newspaper introduced fragments of externally referenced meaning into the collision: "References to current events, such as the war in the Balkans, and to popular culture enriched the content of their art." This juxtaposition of signifiers, "at once serious and tongue-in-cheek," was fundamental to the inspiration behind collage: "Emphasizing concept and process over end product, collage has brought the incongruous into meaningful congress with the ordinary." Arguably, any work of art which involves the application (with glue or by any other means) of things to a surface, but which lacks this purposeful incongruity, this quality of fragmented signifiers colliding, is not truly collage in any important sense.

Collage in painting

Collage in the modernist sense began with Cubist painters Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. According to some sources, Picasso was the first to use the collage technique in oil paintings. According to the Guggenheim Museum's online article about collage, Braque took up the concept of collage itself before Picasso, applying it to charcoal drawings. Picasso adopted collage immediately after (and was perhaps indeed the first to use collage in paintings, as opposed to drawings):
"It was Braque who purchased a roll of simulated oak-grain wallpaper and began cutting out pieces of the paper and attaching them to his charcoal drawings. Picasso immediately began to make his own experiments in the new medium."
In 1912 for his Still Life with Chair Caning (Nature-morte à la chaise cannée), Picasso pasted a patch of oilcloth with a chair-cane design onto the canvas of the piece.
Surrealist artists have made extensive use of collage. Cubomania is a collage made by cutting an image into squares which are then reassembled automatically or at random. Inimage is a name given by René Passerson to what is usually considered a style of surrealist collage (though it perhaps qualifies instead as a decollage) in which parts are cut away from an existing image to reveal another image.
Collages produced using a similar, or perhaps identical, method used by Richard Genovese are called etrécissements by Marcel Mariën from a method first explored by Mariën. Genovese also introduced excavation collage (that includes elements of decollage) which is the layering of printed images, loosely affixed at the corners and then tearing away bits of the upper layer to reveal images from underneath, thereby introducing a new collage of images. Penelope Rosemont invented some methods of surrealist collage, the prehensilhouette and the landscapade.
Collage was often called the art form of the twentieth century, but this was never fully realized.
Surrealist games such as parallel collage use collective techniques of collage making.
Another technique is that of canvas collage, which is the application, typically with glue, of separately painted canvas patches to the surface of a painting's main canvas. Well known for use of this technique is British artist John Walker in his paintings of the late 1970s, but canvas collage was already an integral part of the mixed media works of such American artists as Conrad Marca-Relli and Jane Frank by the early 1960s. The intensely self-critical Lee Krasner also frequently destroyed her own paintings by cutting them into pieces, only to create new works of art by reassembling the pieces into collages.

Collage with wood


Decoupage is a type of collage usually defined as a craft. It is the process of placing a picture onto an object for decoration. Often decoupage causes the picture to appear to have depth and look as though it had been painted on the object.
The process is to glue (or otherwise affix) a picture to an object, then adding more copies of the picture on top, progressively cutting out more and more of the background, giving the illusion of depth in the picture. The picture is often coated with varnish or some other sealant for protection.


Collage made from photographs, or parts of photographs, is called photomontage. Photomontage is the process (and result) of making a composite photograph by cutting and joining a number of other photographs. The composite picture was sometimes photographed so that the final image is converted back into a seamless photographic print. The same method is accomplished today using image-editing software. The technique is referred to by professionals as "compositing", and in casual internet usage it is often called "photoshopping".
Other methods for combining pictures are also called photomontage, such as Victorian "combination printing", the printing from more than one negative on a single piece of printing paper (e.g. O. G. Rejlander, 1857), front-projection and computer montage techniques. Much like a collage is composed of multiple facets, artists also combine montage techniques. Romare Bearden’s (1912-1988) series of black and white "photomontage projections" is an example. His method began with compositions of paper, paint, and photographs put on boards 8 1/2x11 inches. Bearden fixed the imagery with an emulsion that he then applied with handroller. Subsequently, he enlarged the collages photographically.
The 19th century tradition of physically joining multiple images into a composite and photographing the results prevailed in press photography and offset lithography until the widespread use of digital image editing. Contemporary photo editors in magazines now create "paste-ups" digitally.
Creating a photomontage has, for the most part, become easier with the advent of computer software such as Adobe Photoshop, Pixel image editor, and GIMP. These programs make the changes digitally, allowing for faster workflow and more precise results. They also mitigate mistakes by allowing the artist to "undo" errors. Yet some artists are pushing the boundaries of digital image editing to create extremely time-intensive compositions that rival the demands of the traditional arts. The current trend is to create pictures that combine painting, theatre, illustration and graphics in a seamless photographic whole.

Legal issues

When collage uses existing works, the result is what some copyright scholars call a derivative work. The collage has a copyright separate from any copyrights pertaining to the original incorporated works.
Due to redefined and reinterpreted copyright laws, and increased financial interests, some forms of collage art are significantly restricted. For example, in the area of sound collage (such as hip hop music), some court rulings effectively have eliminated the de minimis doctrine as a defense to copyright infringement, thus shifting collage practice away from non-permissive uses relying on fair use or de minimis protections, and toward licensing. Examples of musical collage art that have run afoul of modern copyright are The Grey Album and Negativland's U2.
The copyright status of visual works is less troubled, although still ambiguous. For instance, some visual collage artists have argued that the first-sale doctrine protects their work. The first-sale doctrine prevents copyright holders from controlling consumptive uses after the "first sale" of their work. The de minimis doctrine and the fair use exception also provide important defenses against claimed copyright infringement. The Second Circuit in October, 2006, held that artist Jeff Koons was not liable for copyright infringement because his incorporation of a photograph into a collage painting was fair use.

Collage artists

Further reading


  • Etrécissements by Richard Genovese
  • Museum Factory -by Istvan Horkay
  • History of Collage Excerpts from Nita Leland and Virginia Lee and from George F. Brommer
  • The Bullfinch Guide to Art
  • Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter. Collage City MIT University Press, Cambridge MA, 1978.
  • Mark Jarzombek, "Bernhard Hoesli Collages/Civitas," Bernhard Hoesli: Collages, exh. cat. , Christina Betanzos Pint, editor (Knoxville: University of Tennessee, September 2001), 3-11.
  • Brandon Taylor's book Collage, Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2006


External links

collage in Arabic: كولاج
collage in Catalan: Collage
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collage in Estonian: Kollaaž
collage in Modern Greek (1453-): Κολάζ
collage in Spanish: Collage
collage in Esperanto: Kolaĝo
collage in Persian: کلاژ
collage in French: Collage (art)
collage in Croatian: Kolaž
collage in Icelandic: Klippimynd
collage in Italian: Collage (arte)
collage in Hebrew: קולאז'
collage in Georgian: კოლაჟი
collage in Latvian: Kolāža
collage in Luxembourgish: Collage
collage in Dutch: Collage
collage in Japanese: コラージュ
collage in Norwegian: Collage
collage in Polish: Kolaż
collage in Portuguese: Colagem
collage in Russian: Коллаж
collage in Slovenian: Kolaž
collage in Serbian: Колаж
collage in Finnish: Kollaasi
collage in Swedish: Collage
collage in Turkish: Kolaj
collage in Ukrainian: Колаж

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