Frottage. Also known as the art of rubbing, this painting technique belonging to surrealism consists of painting with the help of a pencil on a paper superimposed on a surface with reliefs in order to reproduce the texture of said surface. It was invented by Max Ernst in 1925 and soon the surrealists resorted to its use frequently, considering it a starting point for the expression of the subconscious image and a stimulus for the imagination.


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  • 1 Technique of chance
  • 2 Creation
  • 3 Results
  • 4 Sources

Chance technique

From the first artistic experiences in childhood, the “frottage” is a procedure long used by man .

The “frottage” (French word equivalent to rubbing) is a graphic technique that consists of rubbing a sheet of paper or a piece of canvas with a soft pigment on a surface with relief. In this way, a sample of the texture of the object or the shapes of the surface is obtained which, depending on the pigment used (‘ lead pencil , charcoal or wax ), varies the qualities of the drawing. Frottage is practiced extensively in children’s art classes, as well as in engraving exercises.

The possibilities of experimentation with the technique are immense as it stimulates the artist’s imagination through a game of illogical associations and makes him a spectator of the creative process. This process, more like a random mechanical act that can be repeated and renewed, results in an image whose expressiveness lies in the texture.


By the early 1920s , Max Ernst inspired by the veining of a floor of wood accented by over the years, he developed a series of drawings to place the sheets of paper on the floor and rub with a soft pencil. The images created resembled organic forms and Ernst published some of these drawings in 1926 under the title “Histoire Naturelle” (“Natural History”).

This would become an automatic method used by surrealists in which a pencil or other drawing and tools are used to rub the paper over a textured surface, thus creating a resulting “rub” that leaves an imprint. your footprint on paper.

Later, Ernst creates the surreal grattage technique with Joan Miró , which is the practice of scraping dry paint off a canvas to create a design.


This technique of friction or automatic rubbing transfers the grain of a rough surface to paper or canvas with the help of a pencil shading, thus serving as a model for the activation of the creative-visionary imagination, by combining a variety of textures in an ingenious way that achieves a rich artistic proposal.


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