Pioneers of Collage Art

Originating from the French word coller (to glue), the artistic method of assembling works from a variety of mediums is now known as Collage Art. As a collection of unrelated components, collage art was born of Cubism, a genre of art which transformed art to more basic and abstract view in a reverse process, and as an avenue of political expression and anti-war sentiment. This novel approach resisted traditional styles and methods of art, embracing industrialization and man-made materials and machinery.

Several genres of art embraced this new method, and collage art developed as artists in Cubism, Surrealism, Dadaism, Abstract Expressionism, and later, Pop Art, scenes sprung at new opportunities to create art with mixed paints, photographs, newspapers, and all types of everyday media considered generally disposable.

Of artists who dared to develop this new approach to artistic creation, these five embraced it fully, and are now considered pioneers of what we understand to be collage art.

Pablo Picasso

One cannot mention the words CUBISM or COLLAGE without considering Picasso. His Still Life with Chair Caning is arguably the first recognized collage work. Although he and George Braque may have been at odds as to whom created the first work of collage art, Picasso wasted no time in utilizing a wide variety of objects in his art, including metal, pieces of musical instruments, and fabric. Strangely, as suddenly as he began working in collage, he simply quit.

Georges Braque

Picasso’s collaborator in cubism, this quiet artist strove to make a mark on the art world without fame or notoriety. His 1908 paintings are considered the first cubist works, while his use of advertisements was revolutionary in the beginnings of collage art.

Henri Matisse

This artist, who worked in other mediums like painting and ceramics, found his passion in collage art, which he described as “painting with scissors.” This method allowed him to continue his artistic endeavors despite old age and infirmity. He emphasized the value of the works he created, focusing not only on the subject, but the entire space between the shapes.

Robert Rauschenberg

One of the most famous modern American artists, Rauschenberg is known for his experimental approach to art and use of multiple materials in his works. His “combines” epitomize the idea behind the collage, where medias are mixed together in a multi-dimensional fashion. Rauschenberg embraced new methods of artistic creation, including silk-screening and art created with non-typical objects, like the tread from an automobile tire, and cardboard boxes.

Hannah Höch

One of the first female artists to experiment with collage art, Höch used newspaper clippings to express her feelings about women’s issues and societal image in post-war Europe. Although she never really earned the respect of other (male) artists at he time, late generations appreciated the work she created which exhibited her strong stance on the shaky position of “modern women” in Europe, caught between the drive (both internal and external) to embrace the “new womanhood” while clashing with the established opinions of a more traditional view on women.


Collage Art Explosion

By the 1950’s, the use of collages in art exploded, thanks in part to Pop Art and the explosive growth of newspaper and other print ads, which provided an abundance of printed material for artistic use. There was acceptance of recycling images for use in fine art, in stark opposition to the culture of art in the past which scoffed at anything “kitschy” or representing everyday items.

Collage art is not only accepted as fine art, combining a myriad of techniques and utilizing many different items to create a multi-dimensional effect, but has truly been instrumental in leading artists to discover new methods of creation. These pioneers, many of whom adopted collage after success in other techniques, paved the way for critical and public acceptance of college, and allowed new artists to reach new heights and discover novel approaches to this technique.