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Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Picasso's Compotier avec fruits, violon et verre (left) and Braque's Fruit Dish and Glass
 (right), both from 1912. There's no indication they fought over who inspired whom.
There's a persistent myth among those who know a little about art, as well as those who think they do, that Pablo Picasso invented collage. Perhaps, in a technical sense, he did, or at least first applied the word to the art technique of gluing "stuff" to canvas then painting around and/or over it. The year often cited is 1912 and the works, Compotier avec fruits, violon et verre or possibly his Still Life with Chair Caning (Nature-morte à la chaise cannée). Of course even that is questionable as to it's "firstness" in that his colleague at the time, Georges Braque, is said to have inspired Picasso by applying wallpaper with a faux wood grain to one of his charcoal cubist drawings. The work (above, right) is dated September, 1912. Let's just say, in celebrating just over one-hundred years of the collage, that they (Braque and Picasso) invented collage in the modern use of the term.

Chinese paper said to be 2,500 years old.
Of course, there are no existent Chinese
collages of that age.
I had to add that last phrase above because collage, as an art form, is said to be as old as paper itself, invented by the Chinese around 500-200 BC. In fact, collage may actually have evolved as part of the process of making paper. Of course we're splitting hairs in this case as much as the one above. Inasmuch as Picasso and Braque worked together for several years, and are usually both credited with having "invented" cubism, it's probably fair to also credit them with having jointly "invented' collage (with all due respect to the Chinese).

Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly
Cultural Epoch in Germany, 1919, Hannah Hoch.
If our team of Picasso-Braque legitimately first used paper and glue in their paintings and drawings, it was the Germans involved in the Dada movement, shortly after WW I, who moved this art forward to its next logical progression--the photo montage. By now, who was or wasn't "first" makes no difference. Perhaps most outstanding from this era is the work of Hannah Hoch, such as her Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany (above), dating from 1919. (She might well have titled it, "Pictures May Be Worth a Thousand Words, but a Few Thousand Words Don't Hurt None Either.") Hoch's work, along with that of Raoul Houseman, Max Ernst, Kurt Schwitters, and others embraced collage as more than a cubist decorative element, using it instead to make important political and social comments; a trend which has taken on a life of its own in the digital age when paper, scissors, and glue have given away to "cut and paste."

As with virtually every other art form, digital technology has invaded the
art of collage as well, though this manifestation has come to be known as "mosaic."


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