Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Short History of Collage

Collage has a long and distinguished history. You can study early collages of the Japanese or Dutch, for example, and then revive an old idea with a new twist, giving a contemporary look and feel to an ancient technique.  And seeing how far back it goes, it's amazing how many people don't know its history; as the origins actually begin with the invention of paper in China around 200 B.C.

The earliest examples of paper collage are the work of twelfth-century Japanese calligraphers, who prepared surfaces for their poems by gluing bits of paper and fabric to create a background for brushstrokes. Later, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in the Near East, craftsmen cut and pasted intricate designs and used marbled papers as part of the art of bookbinding. Later, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, nuns made bookmarks trimmed with cut and colored papers, which they carried in their prayer books. Frequently, the materials used were selected for their symbolism, a practice that continues in contemporary collage.Renaissance artisans of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in western European countries pasted paper and fabric to decorate the backgrounds of coats of arms in genealogical records. Cut-paper silhouettes appeared in the Netherlands in the seventeenth century. Craftsmen in prehistoric and primitive societies in many parts of the world used seed, shell, straw, feathers and butterfly wings as collage material. Shamans and holy men in some societies secured these and other materials to masks used in sacred rituals. All of these materials appear occasionally in artists’ collages today.

There were a few serous collage artists in the late nineteenth century, pasting intricate paper cutouts onto backgrounds. Hans Christian Andersen created illustrations for a book this way. Carl Spitzweg made collages for a collection of recipes with cutouts from woodcuts, which he colored by hand and pasted onto marbled papers. In the last decade of the nineteenth century, graphic artists arranged type and bold, cut-out shapes to create theater posters and illustrations. The introduction of photography led to photomontage, the combining of photographs into artistic arrangements. In time, the photos and posters themselves became collage material.

The twentieth century shed an entirely new light on collage. Katherine Hoffman stated that “Collage may be seen as a quintessential twentieth-century art form with multiple layers and signposts pointing to the possibility or suggestion of countless new realities.” Art historians generally attribute the first use of collage in fine art to Pablo Picasso in 1912, when he glued a piece of patterned oilcloth to a cubist still life. Next, Georges Braques incorporated wallpaper into his artwork. The two artists experimented with papiers coll├ęs as an extension of cubist principles. Instead of creating an illusion of reality, they invented a new kind of reality, using textured and printed papers and simulated wood patterns on their drawings and paintings. Imagine the storm of controversy that followed these experiments. The use of foreign materials in paintings inflamed critics, adding more fuel to the creative fires of experimental artists.

Today’s collage artists invent exciting variations of these ancient collage techniques.Today, two-dimensional paper collages are still a significant means of expression. Collage holds a permanent place in the lists of major media, along with drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture. While it is often used alone, collage is also combined with other media (painting, drawing, and printmaking) in various forms of individual communication. 


Susan Krieg 

I've been doing collage on and off for a while now; and thought to upload a bit about it for you all.  I did cut and paste a lot of this work; as I didn't know much about collage, however, there's more about this type of art on this link.

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