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.