"Everything was broken anyway, and it was viewed as building something new out of shards and broken fragments," Kurt Schwitters said of his motivation to create collages after World War I.

He thus described the essential idea of this technique: the creation of a three-dimensional type of image, composed of existing materials such as paper, cardboard, newspaper cuttings, photographs, or fabric.

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The conceptual fathers of collage were painters such as Pablo Picasso or Georges Braque, who began gluing pieces of paper onto their paintings at the beginning of the 20th century. According to Max Ernst, the collage is completed by a "spark of poetry", which is ignited when the materials are brought together.

Later, artists of various art movements, such as Salvador Dalí, Martin Kippenberger, Werner Büttner, John Heartfield and Jean Dubuffet, were inspired by the collage technique.

The idea of collage influenced many other genres, such as Ready-Made, Assemblage or Combine Painting, and was also transferred to (digital) photomontage and video technology.