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«Collage is part of a continuous journey to self-knowledge and improvement. An intellectual «great journey» by philosophies and civilizations whose thoughts and artifacts are concentrated in the «torn edges» of the original faces» - Robert Motherwell.

Far times.

The history of this art is a little deeper than it seems. Collage first appeared in the Far East in the 12th century, paper at that time was only invented and it is precious and is considered a sacred ritual material. The first known collages appear in Japan, when masters of calligraphy copied poems on pieces of paper. From the 19th century, collage followed trade routes, paper moved to the West, and the history of collage was based on paper production.

In Europe, in the 13th century, Gothic cathedrals used gold leaf panels: icons and coats of arms were painted with precious stones and precious metals. In the 18th century, Marie Delaney, brilliantly knowing botany, used the finest tissue paper to reproduce real flowers in the finest detail! She called her works «botanical mosaics.»

In the early 1860s, 60 years before the advent of the avant-garde and more than a century before the advent of Photoshop, Victorian aristocrats were already experimenting with photo collage. They had fun creating phantasmagoric compositions from photographs and watercolors, telling fascinating stories about the customs and way of life of that time.

According to the Guggenheim Museum's art glossary, collage is an artistic concept associated with the beginnings of modernism, and entails much more than the idea of gluing something to something.

In 1912, Georges Braque passed a wallpaper store in Avignon and noticed a wallpaper with a pattern under the wood. He immediately went in and bought them. When he returned to the studio, he began to cut them and paste rectangular spots on the surface of several large charcoal drawings. Drawings and paper intersect and interact in such a way that it is the beginning of a completely new direction in the art of both Braque and Picasso. The tension in the combination of tactility and visuality creates a gap, a push. "After I made the first collage, I felt a big shock, and it was an even bigger shock for Picasso when I showed it to him," recalls Braque.

Returning to Paris, seeing the collage of Braque, Picasso immediately began experimenting with this technique - he created almost a hundred papers with collages in a short time. In one of Picasso's earliest collages, Guitar and Notes, he glued and layered paper, creating shadow and structure. Early collages are also filled with fragments of popular songs, artificial wallpaper and plywood and fragments of bodies, faces, instruments and other objects. Picasso was in the process of studying and dissecting objects like a surgeon dissecting corpses.

The political madness of the First World War gave rise to DADA. Stylistically, the Dadaists had much in common with the Cubists. Dadaism was born as a way of self-expression through provocation, the only possible, according to supporters, way of life. One of the slogans of Dadaism says: "Dadaist is the freest person on earth." And for self-expression, Dadaist artists choose collage - the same free and, in a sense, unprincipled art form. In the work of Dadaists, collage acquires other qualities: provocative and accidental.

One of the brightest representatives of this movement was Kurt Schwitters. He expanded the range of materials and items used for collages. His small but very sophisticated works, called the fictional word "merzbild", consisted of pieces of paper, bus tickets, labels, coupons, pieces of rope, rags, wood, wire, and nails.

Another representative, Hannah Höch, created her own photomontages using childish replacement techniques - the wrong head on the wrong body, permutation of images, and so on. Through her work, she explored gender roles and politics, questioning exactly how society viewed itself.

The followers of the Dadaists were the Surrealists. They were attracted by the lack of connection between the individual elements of the collage, which was a perfect parallel to the world of sleep, free associations and other manifestations of the subconscious, which they sought to reveal. Unlike the Cubists, the Surrealists conquered the form and color of the figurative content of the work.

Max Ernst cut out engravings from old scientific catalogs and combined them so that they resembled a nightmare in their sense of dreaming. More than any other direction in painting, surrealism expanded the scope and technical possibilities of collage: artists actively used random effects, such as inventing a "decollage", tearing pieces from the finished collage; combined collage with "frottage" - a pattern obtained by wiping with charcoal a sheet of paper placed on a rough textured surface, such as unplaned wood, spilled paint on the canvas.

In the late 1940s, in the last decade of his life, Henri Matisse made a significant breakthrough in his artistic methodology and turned to paper cutting as the main medium, using scissors as his tool. His new creations were called "papier découpé". With the help of gouache, Matisse painted sheets of paper and cut these sheets into different shapes and sizes. They were often inspired by the natural world — flowers and plants — and sometimes they were abstract. He then arranged these various cutouts into lively compositions. At first they were modest in size, but over time they increased, becoming as large as frescoes. The carved environment allowed Matisse to finally do the kind of monumental work he had long wanted to do, going beyond easel painting. Paper cutouts could be secured in place with a pin, easily rearranged and easy to combine colors with its branded arabesque lines. Thus, after undergoing a difficult operation, the sixty-year-old artist could not paint for a long time in oil - and learned to "draw with scissors."

In 1922, Peggy Guggenheim married surrealist Lawrence Vail in Paris, who also made collages. In 1938, she met many surrealists and held an «Exhibition of Collages, Papiers-collés and photomontages» at her gallery in London. The exhibition included works by Picasso, Arp, Ernst, Schwitters and others. In 1941, the Guggenheim, Ernst and other surrealists went to New York to escape the war.

By 1942, Peggy Guggenheim had opened her «Art of the Century» gallery in New York. It became a place where one of the boldest, avant-garde arts of the time were demonstrated. In 1942, Lawrence Vail and Joseph Cornell exhibited collage works there, and Marcel Duchamp demonstrated his «Box in a Suitcase.» And while the «Art of the Century» Gallery provided space for European avant-garde emigrant artists, it has also become a hub for advanced New York abstract artists.

In 1945, the Guggenheim invited Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, and William Basiotis to submit works to the collage exhibition. Guggenheim said of Pollock that he didn't feel much of a collage, but she was surprised by the passion with which he attacked the material. Pollock's wife, Lee Krasner, on the other hand, went through a whole phase of collage. Around the time Pollock was lost in alcoholism and unable to paint, she returned to her small studio and found solace in cutting, tearing, and pasting her work. Interestingly, Krasner often used excerpts from his old, discarded paintings, as well as from Pollock's paintings. About her work on collage, she once said, «My collages are about time and change.»

Pop art appeared in the UK with the Independent Band in the 1950s. Eduardo Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton, both members of the group, made extensive use of the collage method. Paolozzi created collage albums, while Hamilton compared various materials. His collage "What makes modern houses so different, so attractive?" 1956, often called the first work of pop art, presents the interior scene of a house with various objects made of different materials. "My Marilyn" since 1965 is made of oil paints and photo sheets on the panel.

In the United States, at the height of the Vietnam War, Martha Rosler began creating montages, criticizing the military conflict and the complacency of the American consumer. Rosalyn Drexler, meanwhile, collaged photos from category B movies and tabloids directly onto her canvases, and then painted them in a very neat, flat style. The collage is perfectly combined with a fast, sharp, often witty reflection of the time of Pop Art. "Pop is love, because pop recognizes everything ... Pop is like a bomb blast. It's an American dream, optimistic, generous and naive," said Robert Indiana, a spokesman for pop art. Pop art collage is like advertising, it attracts attention, it is young, witty and fleeting.

Text: Elena Budnik

Visual Design/Editorial: Annete


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