What Is Collage? - Definition, Famous Artists & Examples

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  • 0:00 Definition of Collage
  • 0:33 How Artists Used Collage
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Francis

Lauren has a master's degree in art history and has taught many college art courses.

What is a collage? This lesson takes you through the definition, provides some examples, discusses famous artists who made collages, and offers a quiz to see what you learned.

Definition of Collage

Collage, from the French verb coller, meaning 'to glue,' is the artistic process of gluing and assembling various materials to a flat surface. Collage can refer to both the actual procedure of cutting and pasting (the verb), as well as to the final artistic product (the noun).

Think back to elementary school. Did you ever cut out magazine pages and glue them to a piece of paper for a homework project? Or maybe you made a scrapbook with vacation photos and stickers. You may have been a budding collage artist and didn't even know it!

How Artists Used Collage

The process of affixing objects to a surface is probably as old as paper itself, but it didn't become popular in the art world until about the 1920s. Artists including Pablo Picasso, Hannah Höch, Henri Matisse and Romare Bearden each implemented this method. They began using collage as a more modern approach to making art. By cutting and pasting, they were able to deconstruct the subject they were depicting. They could then reassemble and glue it back together again in an entirely new way.

Cubism, a style of art with origins in the early 20th century, explored underlying shapes behind an object, often deconstructing it into basic and abstract structures. Collage worked well to express the geometry of an artwork. As the artist cut out simple shapes from paper or journalistic scraps, he or she would overlap pieces, making compositions from the glued elements. Collage fused painting and sculpture, the flat and the 3-dimensional, into one complete image.

One of the first champions of Cubism was the famous Pablo Picasso, whose collage works include Guitar, Sheet Music and Wine Glass from 1912. In this collage, Picasso used seven different pieces of paper with different patterns and textures, all on a wallpaper background to suggest the rough shapes and countoures of these three objects.

Hannah Höch, a German artist, used collage to critique her government. Höch was a member of the influential Dada movement. The Dada movement responded to emerging political ideas following World War One. By creating avant-garde artworks that used humor, a playful tone and irony, Dada artists questioned their society and redefined art.

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