What Is a Collage?

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what is a collage


Definition of Collage

Collage (/kəˈlɑːʒ/, from the French: coller, “to glue” or “to stick together”;) is a technique of art creation, primarily used in the visual arts, but in music too, by which art results from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole. (Compare with pastiche, which is a “pasting” together.)
A collage may sometimes include magazine and newspaper clippings, ribbons, paint, bits of colored or handmade papers, portions of other artwork or texts, photographs and other found objects, glued to a piece of paper or canvas. The origins of collage can be traced back hundreds of years, but this technique made a dramatic reappearance in the early 20th century as an art form of novelty.
The term Papier collé 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.
There are many different subgenres of collage such as photomontage, fabric collage, and découpage which are different than the basic form of collage.
With modern technology digital collage and eCollage using computer and photo-editing software programs have also arisen.
Techniques of collage were first used at the time of the invention of paper in China, around 200 BC. The use of collage, however, did not arise until the 10th century in Japan, when calligraphers began to apply glued paper, using texts on surfaces, when writing their poems.
In Modern Art collage entered with George Braque and Pablo Picasso when they started to glue material—pieces of paper, fabric, even objects—to canvases and other surfaces in the early twentieth century.
still life with the caned chair 1912
Still Life with Chair Caning by Pablo Picasso (1912)
fruitdish and glass 1912
Fruit Dish and Glass by George Braque (1912)
Later Dadaists like Hannah Höch and Surrealists like Kurt Schwitters and Joseph Cornell also embraced this art form.


hoch cut with the kitchen knife
Cut with a Kitchen Knife by Hannah Höch (1919)
dasundbild kurt schwitters
Das Und Bild von Kurt Schwitters (1919)
In the middle of the twentieth century collage influenced the Pop Art Movement and used in works by Richard Hamilton, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein.
In traditional visual art there are 4 different main types of collages.

1. Papier collé

(French: pasted paper or paper cut outs) is a type of collage and collaging technique in which paper is adhered to a flat mount. The difference between collage and papier collé is that the latter refers exclusively to the use of paper, while the former may incorporate other two-dimension (non-paper) components. As the term papier collé is not commonly used, this type of work is often simply called collage.
Cubist painter Georges Braque, inspired by Pablo Picasso’s collage method, invented the technique and first used it in his 1912 work, Fruit Dish and Glass. Braque continued to use the technique in works such as Bottle, Newspaper, Pipe, and Glass.
Papier collé is primarily used to refer specifically to the paper collages of the Cubists.
fruitdish and glass 1912
Example for Papier collé – Braques’ Fruit Dish and Glass (1912)

2. Decoupage or découpage

(/ˌdeɪkuːˈpɑːʒ/; French: [dekupaʒ]) is the art of decorating an object by gluing colored paper cutouts onto it in combination with special paint effects, gold leaf, and other decorative elements. Commonly, an object like a small box or an item of furniture is covered by cutouts from magazines or from purpose-manufactured papers. Each layer is sealed with varnishes (often multiple coats) until the “stuck on” appearance disappears and the result looks like painting or inlay work. The traditional technique used 30 to 40 layers of varnish which were then sanded to a polished finish.
Three dimensional decoupage (sometimes also referred to simply as decoupage) is the art of creating a three-dimensional (3D) image by cutting out elements of varying sizes from a series of identical images and layering them on top of each other, usually with adhesive foam spacers between each layer to give the image more depth. Pyramid decoupage (also called pyramage) is a process similar to 3D decoupage. In pyramid decoupage, a series of identical images are cut into progressively smaller, identical shapes which are layered and fixed with adhesive foam spacers to create a 3D “pyramid” effect.
A person who does decoupage is known as a decoupeur, or “cutter”.
Example for decoupage, Cyboreg, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

3. Photomontage

is the process and the result of making a composite photograph by cutting, gluing, rearranging and overlapping two or more photographs into a new image. Sometimes the resulting composite image is photographed so that the final image may appear as a seamless physical print. A similar method, although one that does not use film, is realized today through image-editing software. This latter technique is referred to by professionals as “compositing”, and in casual usage is often called “photoshopping” (from the name of the popular software system). A composite of related photographs to extend a view of a single scene or subject would not be labeled as a montage, but instead a stitched image or a digital image mosaic.
Gustav Lucis photomontage
Example for a photomontage, design for a stand at the entrance to an exhibition by Gustavs Klucis, 1920

4. Assemblage

is an artistic form or medium usually created on a defined substrate that consists of three-dimensional elements projecting out of or from the substrate. It is similar to collage, a two-dimensional medium. It is part of the visual arts and it typically uses found objects, but is not limited to these materials.
478px georg hinz cabinet of curiosities brukenthal
Example for assemblage, The Cabinet of Curiosities by Georg Hinz, 1664


Other types of collage are

Paint Collage:

This is a collage form where you paint on a sheet of paper with the colors of your choice. Then you cut or tear the paper and glue it to paper or your surface of choice.

Wood and Natural Collage:

This is a type of collage which can be done by anyone, especially children, as it is easy to collect natural elements and create a collage.


Fabric Collage:

You can use all kinds of fabric including scraps and old clothes. Cut them in pieces and glue, iron on, stitch or sew them on your chosen surface. You can add embellishments such as buttons or ribbons.


3D Collage:

As the name indicates, this is a three dimensional collage.



Yes, mosaics can also be counted as a type of collage. You can use stone, glass, tiles, pebbles and marbe. Mosaics can be created in the form of stain-glass windows, wall hangings, steeping stones or table tops.
Example for a mosaic

Digital Collage:

With modern technology more people tend to create digital art including digital collages. There are many software programs online and for use on your computer to create digital collages.
Here are some sites that help you create digital collages:
















Now you have learned what a collage is, when it evolved, and what types of collage exist. In my further posts I will share more information about the different types of collage.

Find more Collage related posts here