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What is Collage?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Collage, from the French word coller, which means "to stick," is a visual art that is accomplished by gluing objects to a central backing. Two-dimensional collages made with photographs, ribbons, and pieces of magazines and newspapers is a common incarnation of the form. However, structural collages made from found objects such as wood and figurines are not uncommon. The material used in this art form can be both original and borrowed, and the medium is limited only by the imagination of the artist.

The roots of collage can be found as far back as the 10th century, when calligraphers in Japan starting gluing pieces of paper to their works. In 13th century Europe, the idea of applying gold leaf and gems to religious art arose, and the wider idea began to spread among artists. Mosaic, a practice which involves fitting together many small pieces of tile to form a pattern, is also a form of collage, and it has been widely practiced in the Middle East and Mediterranean for centuries.

Typically, a collage incorporates mixed media. The artist may, for example, use clippings from magazines to create a base image, but then write or paint over parts of the finished work. The artist might also choose to make it more dynamic by adding tactile elements such as fabric, ribbon, textured papers, or other objects designed to make the piece more visually interesting. The finished collage is frequently sealed with a glue treatment so that the elements do not peel off.

When working with more three-dimensional found objects, a collage might retain the traditional form of an art piece mounted on a solid backing, or it might turn into a diorama or sculpture. Common elements in this type, in addition to wood, are pieces of glass, ceramic, metal, figurines, dried flowers, and anything the artist can imagine. These art forms can be more fragile, because of the protruding elements, and they are usually heavily secured with strong adhesive products.

Collage is also used in more seamless ways. Artists such as Picasso, for example, incorporated the idea into their paintings. Picasso's paintings lack the textural divisions created by gluing items down sequentially, but they retain the uniquely disjointed look of the art form. Some artists also create photo montage, a form of collage, using a series of small photographs to create a larger image.

Many children experiment with collage in art class, and some later go on to pursue the medium as a career. Some museums have particularly fine examples on display, as do major galleries. Along with a wide variety of other visual media, collage can be used to convey the vast variance of human experience, or simply to create a handmade greeting card, depending on the intent of the artist.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Musical Expert researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By oasis11 — On Sep 20, 2010

Sneakers41-Using a collage creator is easy and really fun to do. College making software takes average photographs and makes a great big photograph with the arrangement of smaller photos.

The software makes it easy to arrange and even allows you the opportunity to create the font and color of the typography.

These types of arrangements are in much demand. An average arrangement can cost in excess of $70. You can also buy some college software in stores like Best Buy. So making these arrangements yourself is not only fun, but can save you a lot of money.

By sneakers41 — On Sep 20, 2010

Eranbond- I don’t know the answer to your question, but I have to say that making a photo collage is a new way to commemorate an event or a memorable trip.

Shape Collage and Wonder Collage are free digital photo collage software that you can download by going to their site. Collage making software like this that shows digital pictures that really enhances a party and makes it more memorable.

You can even put background music as the photos come up to create a special moment in the party.

By eranbond — On Mar 09, 2010

What are products for haemostasis made from collagen?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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