Collage as a technique goes back to the beginning of the 20th century. The term was coined by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso – the word coming from the French coller, “to glue”. Collage became a favoured way of working for many Cubist artists, and in the beginning, the material used for the technique was mainly paper but also small objects, leading to the type of three-dimensional works later termed as an assemblage.
It did not take long before other avant-garde groups saw the potential of collage and included it in their practice; amongst those the Dadaists. The artists of this movement quickly started adding further elements to the collage: from old receipts to candy wrappers, and different types of photographic material. A key figure in the development of what became known as the photomontage was the German artist Hannah Höch. (see fig. 1 Hannah Höch, Das schöne Mädchen (The Beautiful Girl), 1920. Image courtesy bpk, Berlin / Private Collection / Art Resource, NY / Höch, Hannah (1889-1978) © ARS, NY)
Höch’s both humorous and highly critical works evolved around identity and gender in the context of German society. Later generations of especially female artists exploring issues on gender, sexuality and race have likewise used the strategies of collage in their works. A couple of examples are British Penny Slinger, the American artist Martha Rosler and Kenyan-born Wangechi Mutu.