Category Archives: Picasso & Collage

Discover how, by whom, where, and when the widely known collage art technique was invented.

Cubist Artist Pablo Picasso – The Inventor of Collage Art?

                         What is Collage?

Collage – a special method of creating artistic compositions. Its main principle consists of compiling some kind of a mosaic out of materials that have diverse shapes and texture.

Pieces of cloth, scraps of newspaper or book pages, buttons, broken glass, nails, and wood shavings – everything that can be found, all the objects that express the author’s intention are being fixed on the canvas, cardboard or any other basis with the help of glue, wire, thread and form an integral picture.

Collages may include three-dimensional elements and whole objects, such as a doll, mitten, scissors and so on.

An example of a collage by Picasso, 1912
       An example of a collage by Picasso, 1912

There can be plenty of different variants. Contrast combination of materials, for example, technological or artificial, such as plastic, foam plastic on the one hand, and natural, such as bark, ceramic fragments, pieces of linen on the other, makes it possible to create an unusual, bold, controversial and even shocking works.

Combining of similar elements, on the contrary, gives a sense of internal unity, stylistic consistency. In case the natural materials are being used, the work is very likely to be extremely harmonious and will possess some sort of inner equilibrium.

              The Appearance Of Collage

The first evidence of the use of collage techniques dates back to the 2nd century BC and corresponds approximately to the time of the invention of paper in China. Until the 10th century, the use of collage was extremely rare.

Since the 10th century, Japanese calligraphers began to use specially treated and glued small pieces of paper in their works. As concerns Europe, we can say that the history of such a phenomenon as collage begins here in the 13th century.

A National Geographic TV series “Genius: Picasso” 

Elements of gilded sheets began to be used in the decoration of Gothic cathedrals around the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Precious stones and metals started to be used to decorate the sacred images and their frames.

Despite the use of artistic methods that can resemble collage way before the 20th century, some critics still say that the collage, as a separate form of art, appeared only after 1900, with the first phase of modernism.

Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper', 1913 (Picasso's Collage)
        Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper’, 1913

Art collage concepts associated with the beginning of modernism and cubism, in particular, include much more than just the idea of the composition of heterogeneous elements. Paper glued to the Braque’s and Picasso’s paintings offers a new look at the picture.

Three-dimensional parts of the collage collide with the planar surface of the painting. From this perspective, collage technique can be defined as the manifestation of art between a painting and a sculpture.

This new way of the composition provided a new look at the creation of both sculptures and paintings. With time, the collage method evolved into an extremely popular and influential form of art. The history of collage technique can be traced back hundreds of years, but it was only in the early twentieth century when it appeared as entirely new art.

We can say that collage technique started to be widely used in the early twentieth century for creating avant-garde works, mostly by such representatives of cubism as a Spanish painter Pablo Picasso and a French painter and collagist Georges Braque.

Artists of the early 20th century were passionate about the experiments, the search for a new artistic language. One after another, there appeared modernist schools and trends which set a goal – to change conventional ideas about painting.

Cubists in their works used unusual techniques, and materials. One of the discoveries of that era was the collage. They decomposed objects into geometric shapes and constructed paintings by using simple geometric forms as elements of the composition. An image created in such a way was a kind of mosaic compiled from elements-symbols.

in their works, cubist artists strived to reproduce the spirit of modern times. They supplemented the paintings with such signs of civilization as scraps of papers, labels, signage letters.

                      Collage In Paintings

The appearance of such “strange” materials in paintings can be considered the beginning of the collage technique. Pablo Picasso became the creator of the first integral collage compositions.

He embedded in his compositions fragments of wallpaper, posters, newspaper cuttings, sand, wire. By doing it, the master transferred the reality to the context of the picture, destroying all stereotypes about the painting.

A glass and a bottle of Suze by Picasso,1912 (collage)
   A glass and a bottle of Suze by Picasso,1912

The collage method was intended to rebuild the man’s mentality, to make him see that the world is unpredictable and changeable, and the properties of things are impermanent. The reality in the compositions of Picasso was created and constructed according to the will of the artist, not copied or reflected.

In the following years, a whole generation of futurists, surrealists, and other artists shared his fascination for this kind of art. Each element of the composition was extracted from its context and included in an alien environment, thus gaining a whole new meaning. It was this transformation of the material, violation of traditional ties, the unusual role of the usual things that attracted artists.

In the middle of the 1940s, there was a time of intensive experiments. Louise Berliawsky Nevelson created sculptural (three-dimensional) collages from found wooden debris, pieces of furniture, interior items, wooden boxes, barrels, as well as architectural remains, stair railings, wooden panels.

The Age of Collage: Contemporary Collage in Modern Art

Rectangular, very large in size, painted in black, they resemble gigantic paintings, which sometimes can be seen from different angles, or even be transparent. Many compositions from wood are much smaller in scale.

They do usually include pieces of wood, wood shavings or waste collected on the plane, paper, canvas, or on a wooden board. Such framed, like a photograph, three-dimensional collages offer the artist an opportunity to use such inherent properties of wood as depth, natural color, textural variety.

The collage technique with the inclusion of wood can be also used in combination with painting, graphics and other means in a single work of art. The collage was also used by many surrealist painters.

A collage by Louise-Nevelson
                   A collage by Louise-Nevelson

One of the techniques of collage, used mainly by representatives of cubism, cutting the image into squares which were then collected back in random order or with some slight rearrangements.

According to many critics, John Heartfield (German graphic artist, one of the founders of a photomontage), was the first who translated the technique of collage creation into an art form and presented it to the public in 1924.

He used collage as a satirical weapon against Hitler and Nazism, applying it basically for combining the pictures. George Gross recalled that when John Heartfield invented photomontage in his office at five o’clock in the morning in May 1916, no one had any idea of its enormous potential, as it often happens in life, they stumbled upon a gold mine without even knowing it.

A satirical collage by John Heartfield
      A satirical collage by John Heartfield

The collage technique was also used by the Italian futurists and many other artists in the history of the twentieth century, including Robert Rauschenberg, who is considered to be one of the leading masters of this technique.

The new realism exhibition in the Galerie Rive Droite in Paris is known for the international debut of the artists who founded what became known as pop art in Europe and the United States. Many of these artists used collage techniques in their work.

        Contemporary Types Of Collage


Specially prepared elements cut from paper, leather, cloth, and other plant materials are glued to the basis.


A technique of creating the compositions from the elements that constitute the associative array using one or several characteristics.


A technique of creating artworks, design and decor elements of any natural or man-made materials that can not be combined with the usual representation.


The art of decorating objects by gluing different in color, texture and size pieces of paper in combination with special paint effects, varnish, and other coatings. Typically, the surface of the object is completely hidden under the decoration and has the form of incrustation.

     Photo Collage And Photomontage

With the development of photography, a new type of collage appears. It was named a photo collage. Initially, it was making compositions with the help of background pictures, memorable or just beautiful places using different techniques, drawing, creating models of different objects. Later a hole for the face appeared, and the degree of naturalness started to be determined by the skill of the artist who created the image.

                          Make sure you read other posts about cubism art movement

The increased quality of the photos made it possible to create a new subtype of a collage called photomontage. This is a real combination of two or more images into one, which requires many different skills and deep knowledge. The photomontage is very complex and painstaking work which takes many hours of hard work.

Technically, the montage is created in several steps – a selection of images according to the degree and angle of lighting and their general quality, creating applications or printing using a mask, further retouching, removal of image borders, working with shadows, giving natural effect to lightning and then printing the final result.

                A Modern Photo Collage

Today digital photography and advanced software allow creating photo collages of very high quality, visually indistinguishable from the original pictures. Professional use of modern means of digital image processing will help you to find yourself among the favorite movie or historical characters, in the paintings of famous artists, on another planet or in a completely different historical period.

It is also possible to remove or add various elements to the final image, from the text and vignettes to individuals. In addition to the compositions on a single sheet, collages from multiple images of different sizes and decorative elements also gain popularity.

An Example of Photo Collage (Picasso)
                               An Example of Photo Collage

Photos can be designed in the same style and in the same frames. As an alternative – a photo can be stylized according to different periods of time – black and white with a carved edge, sepia, color, digital. Frames can also be of different styles – from simple wooden to modern – plastic and metallic.

Despite the fact that it may seem pretty easy, the modern photo collage is a serious and difficult work, which in addition to vocational skills, requires special knowledge of composition, a theory of light (lighting), the combination and compatibility of colors and simple artistic taste.

If you’re a beginning artist or just want to know more about the collage art technique, I suggest that you have a look at this fabulous book.