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Pablo Picasso
Guitar, 1913
Cut-and-pasted newspaper, wallpaper, paper,
ink, chalk, charcoal, and pencil on colored paper
66.4 x 49.6 cm (26.1 x 19.5 in.)
© 2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS),New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York

Collage has a rich history in the world of art and has been used by artists across various cultures and periods. The technique involves combining different materials and objects to create a cohesive whole, often on a two-dimensional surface. Although various collage-like artworks and techniques have been around before the 20th century, the term "collage" was first used in 1912 to describe the Cubist works of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. They began to incorporate elements of everyday life into their paintings, such as cut-outs of newspapers and advertisements, creating a new type of visual language that reflected the fragmented nature of modern life.

In the decades that followed, collage continued to be used by artists across various movements and styles, such as Dada and Surrealism . Kurt Schwitters and Max Ernst were among the artists who used collage to explore ideas of identity, politics, and consumer culture. Schwitters was a German artist associated with Dada and later on with the Merz movement, which he founded. He used found materials in his artworks, including collages that he called Merz Pictures. Schwitters often incorporated everyday objects, such as bus tickets and newspaper clippings, into his collages, transforming the ordinary into something extraordinary.

Max Ernst was a German-French artist associated with Surrealism. He used collage in both his two-dimensional works and his sculptures. Ernst's collages often combined elements from disparate sources, such as anatomical drawings and illustrations from scientific textbooks, to create surreal and dreamlike compositions. He also used the medium to explore the relationship between humans and machines, a recurring theme in his work.

Max Ernst
Untitled (Loplop Presents), 1932
Collage composed of photograph, graphite drawing, gouache, printedmarble paper, frottage, and cut paper elements, painted, colored, andscratched with crayon on ivory wove paper
50 x 64.6 cm (19.7 x 25.4 in.)
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago

For Pop artists, collage was a way to integrate images and ideas from popular culture and mass media into their work. American artist Robert Rauschenberg incorporated collage into his practice. He created "combines," mixed media artworks that merged elements of painting, sculpture, and collage. Rauschenberg's pieces often incorporated found materials such as newspaper and magazine clippings, as well as everyday objects such as Coca-Cola bottles and street signs. His work frequently commented on consumer culture and the role of art in society.

Russell Craig
Thugs Bunny/Thinking for Change, 2022
Acrylic on textiles, newsprint, and leather purse fragments
152.4 x 149.9 cm (60 x 59 in.)
Courtesy of Malin Gallery, New York, and Russell Craig

Allowing artists to draw multiple complementary and contradictory ideas into an artwork, collage is also used today to describe video artworks, where multiple extracts and images are drawn in to develop a final piece. Contemporary collagists include Kara Walker, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Russell Craig , and Wangechi Mutu.

Related categories


Mixed Media



Works on Paper

Pop Art

Popular Culture Images

Image Production/Reproduction/Transformation


20th Century Art

Found Objects