Techniques of collage were first used at the time of the invention of paper in China around 200 BC. The use of collage, however, remained very limited until the 10th century in Japan, when calligraphers began to apply glued paper, using texts on surfaces, when writing their poems.
The technique of 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.
|"Annunciation", gold leaf and tempera on wood panel by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, 1344|
Gemstones and other precious metals were applied to religious images, icons, and also, to coats of arms.
In the 19th century, collage methods also were used among hobbyists for memorabilia (i.e. applied to photo albums) and books (i.e. Hans Christian Andersen, Carl Spitzweg).
The term collage derives from the French "coller" meaning "glue". This term was coined by both Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in the beginning of the 20th century when collage became a distinctive part of modern art.
Cubist painter, Pablo Picasso, was the first to use the collage technique for oil paintings. In 1912 for his Still Life with Chair Caning (Nature-morte à la chaise cannée), he pasted a patch of oilcloth with a chair-cane design onto the canvas of the piece.
|Pablo Picasso's "Still Life with Chair Caning (Nature-morte à la chaise cannée)", 1912|
Surrealist artists have made extensive use of collage. Cubomania is a collage made by cutting an image into squares, which are then reassembled automatically or at random.
|An example of a "Cubomania" Collage|
Inimage is a name given by René Passerson to what is usually considered a style of surrealist collage (though it perhaps qualifies instead as a decollage) in which parts are cut away from an existing image to reveal another image.
Collages produced using a similar, or perhaps identical, method are called etrécissements by Richard Genovese from a method first explored by Marcel Mariën. Genovese also introduced excavation collage (that includes elements of decollage) which is the layering of printed images, loosely affixed at the corners and then tearing away bits of the upper layer to reveal images from underneath, thereby introducing a new collage of images.
Penelope Rosemont invented some methods of surrealist collage, the prehensilhouette and the landscapade.
Collage was often called the art form of the twentieth century, but this was never fully realized.
|"At the Rendezvous of the Re-enchanters", by Penelope Rosemont, 1991
Surrealist games such as parallel collage use collective techniques of collage making.
Another technique is that of canvas collage, which is the application, typically with glue, of separately painted canvas patches to the surface of a painting's main canvas. Well known for use of this technique is British artist John Walker in his paintings of the late 1970s, but canvas collage was already an integral part of the mixed media works of American artist Jane Frank by the early 1960s.
|"Ostraca" by John Walker, acrylic and canvas collage, 1977|
The intensely self-critical Lee Krasner also frequently destroyed her own paintings by cutting them into pieces, only to create new works of art by reassembling the pieces into collages.
|"Abstract Human Figure", by Lee Krasner, 1938|