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The Art of Analog Collage

Collage, from the French 'coller', 'to glue' or 'to stick together', is a technique of art creation—primarily used in the visual arts, but also in music—by which artworks result from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole.

While collage can take many forms, such as being produced with software such as Photoshop, or by photographic processes, analog collage relates specifically to artwork created by the manipulation and combination of such things as magazine and newspaper clippingsribbonspaint, bits of coloured or handmade papers, portions of other artwork or texts, photographs and other found objects. Analog collages may also be constructed of three-dimensional, often found, objects, such as the monumental works of Louise Nevelson. These are often called 'assemblages', but the basic principle is the same.








Mrs N's Place, Louise Nevelson, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Early precedents

The techniques of collage were developed soon after the invention of paper in China, around 200XBC. The use of collage as an art form, however, developed greatly in 10th century Japan, when calligraphers began applying glued coloured paper to their poems. 

Collage appeared in medieval Europe during the 13th century. Gold leaf panels started to be applied in Gothic cathedrals around the 15th and 16th centuries. Gemstones and precious metals were applied to religious images and coats of arms. In the 19th century, hobbyists used collage to display memorabilia and in scrapbooks. Although the modern practice of collage is usually attributed to Picasso and Braque in 1912, collage, and particularly photocollage, was practiced as early as theX1860s.








Watercolour and Photographic Collage by Mary Georgina Filmer, mid-1860s

Collage and modernism

Despite the pre-20th century use of collage-like application techniques, some art authorities argue that collage, properly speaking, did not emerge until after 1900, in conjunction with the early stages of modernism. For example, the Tate Modern's online art glossary states that collage 'was first used as an artists' technique in the twentieth century'. According to the Guggenheim Museum's online art glossary, collage is an artistic concept associated with the beginnings of modernism and entails much more than the idea of gluing something onto something else.

The patches which Braque and Picasso glued to their canvases offered a new perspective on painting, such as when pieces of newsprint introduced fragments of externally referenced meaning: 'References to current events, such as the war in the Balkans, and to popular culture enriched the content of their art.' This juxtaposition, 'at once serious and tongue-in-cheek', was fundamental to the inspiration behind collage: 'Emphasizing concept and process over end product, collage has brought the incongruous into meaningful congress with the ordinary'.
Louise Nevelson.webp
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