For study and inspiration Allowed artists to push beyond traditions toward a glimpse beyond reality
Use realistic-looking items in strange or unusual context People & animals appear in normal settings but upon closer inspection, the settings are anything but ordinary
Quote: Max Ernst said he was inspired to use frottage by some floorboards, "the grain of which had been accentuated by a thousand scrubbings . . . I made from the boards a series of drawings by placing on them, at random, sheets of paper which I began to rub with black lead. In gazing attentively at the drawings thus obtained . . . I was surprised by the sudden intensification of my visionary powers and by the hallucinatory succession of contradictory images superimposed, one upon the other, with the persistence and rapidity peculiar to amorous memories. My curiosity awakened and astonished, I began to examine indiscriminately, using by the same means, all sorts of materials found in my visual field: leaves and their veins, the frayed edges of a bit of sackcloth, the brushstrokes of a 'modern' painting, a thread unwound from a spool, etc."
Brass rubbing in Britain has become so popular, and caused such wear to old plaques, that access to most original brasses has been restricted. Today, those interested are typically charged fees for making rubbings from resin reproductions.
Decalcomania was adopted as a surrealist art process in 1936 by Oscar Dominguez (Spanish, born Tenerife, 1906-1957), who described his technique as "decalcomania with no preconceived object." It involved applying gouache to paper or glass, then transferring a reversal of that image onto canvas or some other material. Max Ernst (German, also lived in the USA, 1891-1976) also practiced decalcomania, as did Hans Bellmer (German, 1902-1975) and Remedios Varo (Spanish, also lived in France and Mexico, 1908-1963).
With the outbreak of war the year before, Ernst, as a German national resident in Paris, had been arrested and interned. He was later released, but was re-arrested and interned a second time in 1940. The German forces’ push through France threatened to overrun the camp at Les Milles where Ernst was detained. The artist was one of 2,500 inmates whose lives, it was thought, would be imperilled should the Germans arrive there, and were thus evacuated by way of a chaotic train journey toward Bayonne. Further misadventures followed, until his release was secured thanks to the combined efforts of several of his friends, and he was brought to the relative safety of Marseilles. Ernst still felt unsafe in Vichy France, and made plans to leave for the US. First, though, he had to get out of France, and it was at this juncture that his use of decalcomania may have saved his life, when, at the Franco-Spanish border his passport was deemed invalid, and was confiscated by a suspicious French station-master. Even so, Ernst decided to proceed to the Spanish customs-hall, where he was made to unpack a parcel containing several of his finished and unfinished canvases, some framed, some rolled-up… Fortunately, they were in the decalcomania technique. As this is a technique which gives the impression of well-finished, elaborate work with rather dark colours, an exhibition was at once improvised in the customs hall. The customs officers were enchanted [...] There remained the (French) station master. He asked Max to go with him to his office. There he said ‘Monsieur, I adore talent, and you, sir, have great talent. I admire it.’ Then he gave him back his passport and led him to the platform, on either side of which a train stood waiting to go. ‘This one’ he explained, ‘is the one going to Spain. The other one will be returning to Pau, the nearest pr�fecture’ and he added: ‘Be very careful not to take the wrong train.’ After which he very kindly went back to the passport-control office. [...] Max Ernst, of course, took the advice the station-master had not dared to give him more explicitly: he took the wrong train and ten minutes later he found himself in Spain, on his way to Madrid and Lisbon. Upon his arrival in New York, Ernst was detained again, on Ellis Island. Once again, he was fortunate to have influential friends to vouch for him, and help secure his release.
• Depict unconscious mind &
dreamlike alternate realities
• Emerged in 1920s allowed push
beyond traditional techniques,
methods, & philosophies.
• Picture or design created by adhering
such basically flat elements as
newspaper, wallpaper, printed text and
illustrations, photographs, cloth, string,
etc., to a flat surface
• "Collage“ originally a French word,
derived from the word coller, meaning
Max Ernst. The Hat Makes the Man. 1920.
gouache, pencil, ink and cut-and-pasted collotypes.
14 x 18 inches. Museum of Modern Art, NY.
• Technique of rubbing with crayon or
graphite on a piece of paper which has
been placed over a textured object, or an
image achieved in this way
• Max Ernst first introduced frottage in his
works in 1925, often employing such
rubbings as part of a collage, or
combining frottage with painting
English (Barlow, Derbyshire), Memorial to Robert
and Margaret Barley. 1467, incised brass plaque.
• Scraping – again developed by Max Ernst
• Begin by trowling paint onto a surface,
allow it to dry before scraping the paint
off with pointed tools
• Idea was to create partial images leaving
the completion of the image to the mind
of the viewer.
Max Ernst. Forest and Dove. Oil
on canvas. 100 x 82 cm. 1927.
Tate Gallery, London, UK.
• Process of transferring images from
surface to another surface
• "Decal" is short for decalcomania
• "Decalcomania“ from a similar French
word meaning "a craze for transferring a
• Developed by Oscar Dominguez
Max Ernst. The Eye of Silence. 1943/44. Oil on canvas. 108 x 141 cm.
Washington University Art Gallery, Saint Louis, MO, USA.
Max Ernst. Epiphany. 1940. oil on canvas.
Max Ernst. One Tree And United
Tree. 1940. Oil on canvas.
• Method of making an image with smoke
• Developed by Wolfgang Paalen, whose
first fumages were made with a kerosene
Burhan Dogancay. Magnificent Era. 1987. 65.51 x
145.” Acrylic, gouache, collage, fumage on canvas.