by Ruby Inurriaga
In the spring of 1912, Pablo Picasso created the first collage. This work, Still Life with Chair Caning, is considered the first because it is the earliest known artwork to have taken familiar materials, such as random papers, and deliberately arrange them in a fine art context (Shields). This new direction in modern art was coined papier collé, a French phrase for “glued paper,” by Picasso and Georges Braque, an artist who worked closely with Picasso during the creation of Cubism. Collage was a groundbreaking movement because it was a drastic change from the traditional domain of painting, as the “procedures for laying out, pinning, and gluing papier collés resemble commercial design strategies more than they do the protocol of the fine arts” (Bois, Buchloh, Foster, Joselit, and Krauss, 114). Not only did the collage movement completely shift the entire vocabulary of Cubism, it has inspired art of all different styles and forms throughout the twentieth century and even today.
Picasso’s work, Still Life with Chair Caning, was created using oil and pasted oilcloth on canvas, rope, and a chair caning. The artwork depicts a still life and references objects that could be laid on a table in a café. In this piece, Picasso brought in foreign objects, like a chair caning, which could have been found in one’s seat at a coffee shop. The letters incorporated into the artwork could possibly be referencing newspapers that could have been laying on the table. This piece allowed Picasso to explore what would happen when other objects were inserted into a painting. He used pieces from the actual scene he was depicting and arranged them in a new, abstract way. Collage is an art form that accentuates process over product. A collage as a work of art, “consists of the assembly of various fragments of materials, combined in such a way that the composition has a new meaning, not inherent in any of the individual fragments” (Shields). Still Life with Chair Caning can be seen as a reinvention of the still life.
Picasso created many more collage works, one being Bowl with Fruit, Violin and Wineglass, made in 1912-1913 with charcoal, chalk, watercolor, oil paint, and cut papers. This piece also seems to depict a still life inspired by a café scene. In this artwork, separate printed pieces of fruit are placed on top of a paper cut-out shaped like a bowl. Newspaper articles have been cut up and used many times, and some even assume that Picasso was referencing the conversations that happened at the table in a café. Collage works were not driven to accomplish illusionistic representation, but instead relied on various materials and compositional logic.
Papier collé was a revolutionary movement in modern art as it seemed to attain several meanings; “the original identity of the fragment or object and all of the history it brings with it; the new meaning it gains in association with other objects or elements; and the meaning it acquires as the result of its metamorphosis into a new entity” (Shields). Due to the innovative nature of collage, it has served as source of inspiration throughout art history.
Art, Philadelphia Museum of. “Bowl with Fruit, Violin, and Wineglass.” Philadelphia Museum of Art, www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/53855.html.
Foster, Hal, et al. Art Since 1900. Thames and Hudson.
Shields, Jennifer1. "Collage and Architecture." International Journal of the Image, vol. 2, no. 3, Oct. 2012, pp. 85.
Still-Life with Chair Caning, 1912 by Pablo Picasso, www.pablopicasso.org/still-life-with-chair- caning.jsp#prettyPhoto.