What is Collage, And How Has It Evolved?

Learn about the origins and current use of collage, an artistic technique that can awaken our creativity

Collage is a technique that has evolved as the number of its collage artists has multiplied. It allows the use of virtually any material and, over time, it has become a versatile art form, with many exponents and styles.

Origins of collage

Although similar artistic techniques have existed since the Middle Ages, many critics, art historians, and museum institutions consider that collage itself was born in the 20th century. Others, such as the Art Institute of Chicago, recognize earlier photo-collage works as part of this technique. In the example below, from the mid-19th century, Georgina Louisa Berkeley created a watercolor photo-collage with albumen print photographs. She and other Victorian artists who explored the technique depict themselves and other women in an independent context, far removed from the domestic life to which they were confined.

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Georgina Louisa Berkeley (C. 1850)

Collage as we know it today

The precursors to modern collage were Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. With them, collage became the technique to apply different materials to a canvas, like newspaper cuttings, paper, fabric, and even found objects. These items were used to compose abstract pieces that were common in cubism. The arrival of the First World War meant many years would pass before collage became popular again in Europe.

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Pablo Picasso, Still Life with Chair Caning (1912)

Collage in art: from Dadaism to Surrealism

Later on, artists arrived who incorporated more elements and gave a new meaning to the final pieces. Dadaists began using found objects, such as text clippings from magazines and books, candy wrappers, and train tickets. Some exponents of this style are Kurt Schwitters and Max Ernst, in whose pieces it is easy to distinguish the different elements that make up their collages.

The Surrealists created unique compositions that adhered to their maxim of connecting to the unconscious: they incorporated photographs, illustrations, and paintings, as can be seen in the work of André Breton or Joseph Cornell.

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Marx Ernst, collage inside the book Une semaine de Bonté (1933)

Contemporary collage

Over time, more and more styles and artists decided to take up collage as a means of expression. It was an important part of artistic movements such as pop art. Today, it has not lost its appeal, but has evolved and is used with digital tools, although many artists continue to opt for analog techniques.

In the following examples, Israel G. Vargas (@israelgevargas) uses digital techniques, while the second composition by Susana Blasco (@su_b) is handmade.

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Israel G. Vargas, Día y noche (2016)
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Susana Blasco, Triángulos (2015)

Other contemporary examples of professionals teaching courses at Domestika, such as Randy Mora (@randymora), and an animated collage by Joseba Elorza (@miraruido).

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Randy Mora, Full Windsor (2018)

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