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Collage In Fine Art

Updated on January 15, 2015

Collage And Its Place In Fine Art

Is collage art? What is the place of collage in modern art? How long has collage been accepted as Fine Art?

These and other questions have been bothering me ever since I wrote a lens entitled, Is All Photography Art? Perhaps not an immediate link but it did cause me to sit back and think. So I set out to try to answer the question for myself. After a considerable amount of research into collage, its place and its history in fine art, I have been able to start satisfying myself that I have understood some of the answers. if only partially. This lens attempts to put this research into an easily readible format and answer not only the questions posed above but many more as I present my findings. It will be a work in progress and should be read as such, although always being complete enough to provide something for the artist using the media.

The image here is a collage by myself (the dancers were cut from coloured tissue and adhered to the backing) which was created for a workshop I held for my art group. It was made in homage to the very famous "Dance" by Matisse. I called mine "The Prancers". I am told that I have a funny sense of humour, at times.

As with many lenses, I consider this a work in progress and will be adding more information in the near future, all art work is by the author.

All the images are of collages by myself, utilising images from my own photographs or from images in the public domain. The exceptions are the intro image which is constructed from cut-outs and the image immediately below which does use small pieces of magazine images to construct a very different image. I believe that this does not fall foul of the copyright laws.

collage and art, clothes to die for
collage and art, clothes to die for

What Is Collage?

Today collage is accepted as belonging to the fine arts, and there are many artists creating works in this medium. Collage is the creation of an artwork by adhering images, materials and ephemera onto a surface. It is a term also used to describe the artwork produced.

It has been around for almost as long as art itself but until relatively recently was not considered suitable for Fine Art, since collage uses mostly, but not exclusively, ordinary, everyday materials.

As an artist, I claim to be essentially self taught. This may however not be such a good thing because I am finding out that there is such a vast array of techniques, which I have never come across. Collage came into this area for me until quite recently. I have been involved in collage for only about three or four years now, and began to feel that I would like to know a little more about it. I started to read widely and do some research to satisfy my lack of knowledge and experience.

This lens is one of the results of this research.

I did not realise that collage had such an important place in modern art over the past century or so, and that it also has a long history which culminated in wide use during the nineteenth century, during the victorian era, although this was more as a hobby than as an art form. I was reticent about calling my collages art when I first started in this media and tended to treat them differently to my paintings but I now know differently.

There are many similar and associated techniques from photomontage to assemblage (a three dimensional variation of the technique) but in this lens I will only give passing mention to these.

collage in fine art, using ephemera from a trip to prague
collage in fine art, using ephemera from a trip to prague

The Origins Of Collage

Collage is not new and if you are into collage, then almost certainly whatever you do has been done before.

  • · In the 12th century in Japan, writing surface were made by adhering paper and textile pieces on to a backing.
  • · In the 13th century, artists were decorating religious images with gems, fibres, relics and precious metals.
  • · In the near east in the 15th and 16th centuries craftsmen were using marbled papers in their bookbinding
  • · Another example is the way that nuns in the 17th and 18th centuries made bookmarks using coloured papers.
  • · In many primitive societies craftsmen were using seeds, straw, feathers and butterfly wings to produce masks and other artifacts for sacred rituals
All of these materials and techniques are used today in collaging, including many works of fine art.

The image here is a photograph of a collage on stretched canvas, which I created using ephemera from a trip to Prague in 2007. It was made as a reminder of a wonderful weekend and is something to look at, a little like a page from a scrapbook. It uses bus and underground train tickets, images from my own photographs, travel brochures, coins, etc.

collage in fine art,
collage in fine art,

A Short History Of Collage In The 20th Century.

And Its Relation To Fine Art

In 1912 Picasso and George Braques started using collage in their new art form, cubism. They introduced ripped newspapers, coloured papers, wrapping papers, wall papers and various materials with texture such as wood and leather as part of their images.

Other artists experimenting with new ideas took up the use of collage and it soon found a place with the Futurists. For artists in this movement collage signified the machine age and associated ideas; speed, movement and mechanisation.

The constructivists found that industrial materials such as glass, plastic substances and metal components helped by signifying social change. The works of art from this movement favoured the common good to the detriment of the individual.

Artists of the Dada movement were using collage to great effect but their introduction of "ready-mades" was said to have paved the way toward minimalism. Marcel Duchamps "Fountain" is most often quoted as an example.

Surrealism had its own proponents of collage with even Chagall including paper and envelopes into his paintings.

I would like to single out Kurt Schwitters who believed, "that every artist should be permitted to put together a picture out of nothing more than say, blotting paper, as long as he knows how to give it form." He then went on to invent a structure created from nothing more than items taken from waste paper baskets, he called it Merzbau. The word was made-up being taken from the middle of the name of a german company.

Have You Ever Used Collage? - Anything At All?

collage in fine art,
collage in fine art,

Have you kept a scrapbook of a favourite person or place, decorated items at home ( or school), or any other use of collage? I did this photo montage using "found" magazine images for a workshop I ran for my art group.

Have you collaged anything?

See results

And Finally

collage in fine art, using vintage images
collage in fine art, using vintage images

A Conclusion That Places Collage Firmly In Fine Art

I certainly looks as if collage has been accepted into the world of the Fine Arts, judging by its history and the number and quality of the artists who have used this medium.

Today there are many artists who use mixed media and collage techniques without blinking an eye. Thus for me the use of this art form is ratified and I can feel easy about referring to it as art and to myself as an artist even though I am now creating far more collages than paintings. My question has been answered. Collage is most definitely an accepted art form.

The photo is another of my collages, this time using vintage images from the public domain. It is one of about 20 in an altered book I created.

collage atc using found images
collage atc using found images

A Quick Note In Defence Of Collage

In Answer To Questions Received.

  1. Why would anybody want to use cut-out images to make a scene
  2. It does not feel like my work
  3. Can I use copies of my own work

Not easy to answer the first point, however since doing the research for this lens I am finding that I treat the images I use for collage as I would the paint / pencil / pastel / etc for my paintings and drawings. I use the medium of "found" images and extract added value from them. That is the art of collage, much the same as it is for any other art form. Of course many collage and mixed media artist use their own art to supply images for re-use. Even to the point of photocopying the originals and making use of the resulting copies.

As for the second point, that was exactly the way I was feeling but had not explicitly stated it above. Again I can only say that I now recognise the added value that collage can bring to an art work or the added value that can be obtained by using and combining existing images. This can be to tell a story or simply to create a new image with artistic value.

On the last point, YES, YES and YES. Do find ways of leveraging your own artwork by using it ( or copies) in collage. It is extremely satisfying. The photo here is of a collage using some of my own photos, the garden path, the gnome and the flower stalks are from my own photos and the copies are then touched-up with colour. I have also done the same with my paintings on many collaged works of art .

Definitions Of Terms Associated With Collage - As Used In Fine Art

As promised right at the top this is the passing reference to other very similar terms which are sometimes confused with collage.

  1. Collage: a technique of composing a work of art by pasting on a single surface various materials not normally associated with one another, as newspaper clippings, parts of photographs, theater tickets, and fragments of an envelope. Dictionary .com
  2. Assemblage: a sculptural technique of organizing or composing into a unified whole a group of unrelated and often fragmentary or discarded objects. Dictionary .com
  3. photomontage: a combination of several photographs joined together for artistic effect or to show more of the subject than can be shown in a single photograph. Dictionary .com
  4. Chine-colle: a special technique in printmaking in which the image is transferred to a surface that is bonded to a heavier support in the printing process. Wikipedia
  5. Montage: the technique of combining in a single composition pictorial elements from various sources, as parts of different photographs or fragments of printing, either to give the illusion that the elements belonged together originally or to allow each element to retain its separate identity as a means of adding interest or meaning to the composition. Dictionary .com

Further Reading From The World Wide Web

Of course there are many sources of information available on the web, here are a few of the ones that I have come across whilst researching this lens.

One Final Thought On Collage in Fine Art

I recently watched a show on TV about Andy Warhol's career entitled modern masters. He started by collaging whilst on an extended sick leave from school, his mother used to provide him with movie magazines which he cut up and used for his collages.

There is hope for me yet!

Collage is something that many artists are ever more aware of and I hope this has given them something to think about, but i would love to hear from you if you have any comments about collage or about this lens in general. I feel sure that there is a lot more to add and in many ways I consider it a work-in-progress, so if you have something to say please share it.

Would You Like To Reply To This Lens? - Good Or Bad Have Your Say!

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    • John Dyhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      John Dyhouse 

      4 years ago from UK

      Yes, that can be very satisfying. Also torn or cropped images from your own art can be used effectively to create new art works

    • pinkydoo profile image


      4 years ago from New York

      Collage is a very fun sort of creative project. I like to create holiday projects by first painting my own picture, and then adding cut-out elements from holiday magazines!

    • John Dyhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      John Dyhouse 

      5 years ago from UK

      @JennifersArtWorld: Thank you for a very interesting comment

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I've dabbled in this genre from time to time! I usually use heavier materials than paper, or more three dimensional, but overall the elements of balance and focus can create some pretty striking images. National Geographic magazines have the best photography in them and one time I founda lengthy article on the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a subject that led to me creating a collage made of images of this dramatic scenario in history. Thatnks for submitting.

    • John Dyhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      John Dyhouse 

      5 years ago from UK

      @Stephanie36: THank you very much for those kind words

    • Stephanie36 profile image


      5 years ago from Canada

      I remember doing some collages in school, but we never got anywhere near this level. These are fantastic!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What a study you have created here, most of which I guess I have not really are so in touch at an intellectual level along with your artistry. My brain has shut down for the night but my thoughts are swimming around...sorta like a collage, I guess that would be a collage of thoughts! Well done with your usual attention to the fine details, excellence sir! :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I did a collage. It was an art project when I was in about 6th grade. It was my first time and my last time. I'm not really an artist. But I do love various forms of art and collage is just one of them. I'll be sharing this lens. Nice pice of work!

    • Sher Ritchie profile image

      Sher Ritchie 

      7 years ago

      The Pop Art movement of the 1950s (particularly in UK) experimented with collage/montage as well. This is a great lens; thanks for answering the "Is collage still my own work?" question, because it does arise a lot for collage/montage artists. Thanks for sharing!

    • beckyf profile image


      7 years ago

      I hadn't realized that collage is now accepted as a fine art. This is a good thing. I enjoyed your lens.

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 

      7 years ago

      This is quite thought provoking. I appreciate your thoughts, your art, and the definitions of collage vocabulary.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I don't know if this has already been asked - but these days with more consciousness of copyrights, is it okay to use pieces cut from newspapers or magazines, whether the origin of these is recognizable or not?

      Glad you did the research.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very interesting. I especially like the collage with Robbie Burns. Blessed!

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 

      8 years ago

      great lens thumbs up... RWJR

    • fotolady49 lm profile image

      fotolady49 lm 

      8 years ago

      VERY nice lens! I've added this to my related pages module and I also may link to it in the body of my lens, I am thinking of doing some more updates.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Lovely post, Great pictures and very informative.

    • CruiseReady profile image


      8 years ago from East Central Florida

      nice work.

    • Sensitive Fern profile image

      Sensitive Fern 

      8 years ago

      I absolutely agree that collage is art, just as doodles are. It's pretty crazy to think that anybody can tell anybody else what art really is, anyway.


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