Collage – Concept, type and examples

We explain what collage is and how this artistic technique originated. Also, the types of collage that exist and examples of them.

In the plastic arts, for a collage, photographs and newspapers are often used, among others.

What is collage?

It is called collage (from the French coller, which translates “paste”) into an artistic technique consisting of the construction of plastic works by agglomerating or combining pieces or cuts of different origin, giving them a unified tone. In other words, it is about putting together a work with bits obtained from other sources.

Collage it is typical of painting, but it is also possible to use its principles in music, photography, cinema, literature or video clips. In the case of plastic arts, photographs, illustrations, newspapers, magazines, wood, leather, everyday objects, etc. are usually used as raw material for a collage.

It is assumed that the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso would have invented collage in 1912 with his work Still life with fishnet chair. But he had already had similar experiences since 1898, and was inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s experiences with the “Found Object” (objet trouvé), art made with everyday objects in disuse.

Collage it was employed by numerous artistic trends of the 20th century, especially by the historical avant-gardes of the beginning of the century: Futurism, Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Constructivism, etc.

Among some of the artists best known for their foray into collage we have: Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Kazimir Malevich, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Robert Pollard, Man Ray, Larry Rivers, Antonio Berni and many more.

Collage types

Photo collage
Photo collages use only photographs to compose a work.

There is no proper classification of collage, as it is a diverse technique. But we can try one according to the characteristics of the finished work:

  • Three-dimensional collage. Those works in which embedded objects not only fulfill a two-dimensional role (length and width), that is, they are not only part of the painting, but also offer a three-dimensional experience, with depth, texture and perspective.
  • Photo collage. Those who use only photographs to compose a work that combines fragments of one with pieces of another, in the manner of twentieth-century fotonovelas. Photos overlap each other, blend into each other, and do not respect their natural edges.
  • Grid collage. These types of collages are more respectful of a geometric order and use matrices to order their elements, thus giving a global or ensemble feeling that tends towards stability, rather than chaos.
  • Mosaic collage. A huge set of images or tiny objects are arranged in such a way that, when zoomed out, a larger image is reproduced that encompasses them and that is, in turn, a recognizable figure: a portrait, a landscape, etc.

Collage examples

antonio berni
Antonio Berni has a series of scrap sculptures called Monsters.

Some examples that allow us to illustrate the art of collage are:

  • Vik Muniz’s Trash Mosaics. This Brazilian artist worked with people who live in a garbage dump near Rio de Janeiro and used them to collect garbage and waste material, placing it on the floor of a huge shed until he formed a mosaic reproduction of a portrait previously taken of his faces, imitating some famous painting. Once everything was arranged on the ground, the artist climbed onto a scaffold to take the photograph from above.
  • The monsters of Antonio Berni. This Argentine artist of diverse work has a series of sculptures made with waste material that he baptized as monsters, and whose bodies are made of recognizable garbage: cans, tires, brushes, nets, etc. But when looking at them from afar, these sculptures are shaped like reptiles, dragons, etc.
  • The paintings of Georges Braque. This French painter and sculptor is considered by many to be the “other” father of collage. For this he used texts and colors, paper sculptures and a whole series of works developed from the coexistence of different elements.