What is frottage? How can we explore the process?

Artist Inspiration – learn about Frottage from master artists Max Ernst


Max Ernst started using the frottage technique in his work in 1925. As some might still recall from their childhood days, this technique involves laying a piece of paper on a structured surface and making a rubbing of its texture with a pencil. By his own admission, Max Ernst discovered this technique for himself on the rainy afternoon of August 10, 1925, when he observed a washed-out wooden floor in a hotel at Pornic on the French Atlantic coast. The floor’s structure inspired him to place a piece of paper on the floorboards and then transfer its textures to the sheet with graphite.

Aside from wood boards, he also utilized textures from leaves, bark, thread, straw, textiles, netting, and dried paint as the starting point of his frottages. He regularly shifted the paper while rubbing: “When I intensely stared at the drawing won in this manner, at the ‘dark spots, and others of a delicate, light, semi-darkness,’ I was by the sudden augmentation of my visionary facilities with contrasting and superimposed pictures.” Inspired by the resulting structures, associations were produced that the artist reshaped into new pictorial worlds. In 1925 he put together a selection of frottages for the portfolio Histoire naturelle. The thirty-four prints in the series were reproduced here as lithographs in order to further underscore the impression of their pictorial reality compared to the original frottages.

SOURCE:  https://www.modernamuseet.se/stockholm/en/exhibitions/max-ernst/collage-frottage-grattage/