Research & Reflection: Collage

Two artists whose work I admire greatly are Picasso and Matisse. I was lucky enough to see an exhibition of the latter’s work in Newcastle a year or so ago: Henri Matisse: Drawing With Scissors

Henri Matisse, The Snail 1953


For me this colour palette and arrangement of shapes is uplifting and very pleasing to the eye. The complementary colour scheme with a wide variation in tone from cream to black is perfectly balanced, yet appears at first glance to be a quick and simple picture.



Henri Matisse Nu Bleu II 1952 Lithographic reproduction (from original paper cut out)


The piece above is so restrained, yet its subject is completely recognisable, using only simple forms and two colours. The artist has abstracted the most recognisable aspects of the figure and has captured an expressive pose. It suggests to me that I do not need to use a complicated colour palette to make an arresting image: coming back to the idea of introducing constraints.

On the website, I see that his method of making the paper cut outs began by cutting shapes freehand with small scissors, before pinning them to the wall and considering the eventual composition for a long time before arriving at the finished artwork. This reminds me of my Tutor’s advice to stand back and take an overview of work in progress, to see the ‘whole picture’.

I saw some of Picasso’s collage work at the Musée Picasso in Paris, many years ago.

Pablo Picasso Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper, 1913


The artist has used a simple palette, appearing to use materials at hand. An interesting aspect of this piece is the way objects have been depicted at their most recognisable angles: the guitar from above and the wine bottle from the side. A small amount of drawing adds clues for the eye to complete the image: the frets on the guitar and the label on the wine bottle, for example.

In a completely different style: I found a book by Gloria Vanderbilt in a second-hand bookshop yesterday. Unfortunately, the book was in too poor a condition to keep, but I managed to salvage some images from it. I like her bright naif style and simple ‘icon’-like shapes. All the images in the book are black and white, but her signature seems to be to use gingham checks and lace in a number of her pieces. She also intermingles these with old photographs, commercially-produced scrapbook images (flowers, butterflies etc), and found objects such as paper doilies, food packaging and greetings cards. Sometimes she adds drawn elements, such as a face, or squiggles representing wallpaper. I can see Matisse’s influence in some of her plant shapes. I like her simple approach, with an emphasis on making an arrangement that is pleasing to the maker’s eye.


Gloria Vanderbilt Fishes and Objects, Table Setting (scanned black and white print versions)

Source:- (Vanderbilt, and Lewis, 1981)


These three collage makers appeal to me because of the simplicity of their images; their methods of making recognisable shapes that represent the objects depicted at their most recognisable angles (a technique that the Egyptians also used). The edge of a table or a fish tank is represented by a simple edge, drawn line, or shape. The forms are often abstracted and require the viewer to pause and interpret them, which I believe adds to the pleasure of viewing an artwork.



Vanderbilt, G, and Lewis, A A (1981) Gloria Vanderbilt’s Book of Collage. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Inc.,U.S.



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