Artist Research – Max Ernst

In my latest report from my tutor he advised looking at Max Ernst Collage’s and I remembered a book that I’d brought recently which mentioned Max Ernst. The book is called ‘Just Draw it!’ and offers an alternative improvement to drawing course. It mention’s Max Ernst’s invention of a technique called “frottage”:

p.100 from 'Just Draw It' by Sam Piyasena & Beverly Philp

p.100 from ‘Just Draw It’ by Sam Piyasena & Beverly Philp

p.101 from 'Just Draw It' by Sam Piyasena & Beverly Philp

p.101 from ‘Just Draw It’ by Sam Piyasena & Beverly Philp

It suggests looking into his ‘Natural History’ series which involves this technique called frottage. Frottage comes from the french “to rub” and refers to taking rubbings of an object to create a mark/drawing on paper. Ernst’s Natural History series is a series of works created using the frottage technique, taking rubbings of natural materials from leaves, to wood to other found objects.

I found this video on YouTube to be a helpful view into frottage and Max Ernst’s work. Here the artist speaks about the process and how it helped him overcome what he calls his ‘virginity complex’ – he uses this phrase to refer to a fear of making the first mark on a clean piece of paper or canvas.

In his Natural History series there are some more representational pieces,  i.e. rubbings of leaves where the object still resembles itself and some more abstract images where the artist has altered the composition of object to create images from rubbings that are quite obscure in their nature:

Fields of Honour, flood, seismic plants from Natural History - 1926 By Max Ernst

Fields of Honor, flood, seismic plants from Natural History – 1926 By Max Ernst

Come into the continents from Natural History - 1926 by Max Ernst

Come into the continents from Natural History – 1926 by Max Ernst

 

Little tables around the earth from Natural History - 1926 Max Ernst

Little tables around the earth from Natural History – 1926 Max Ernst

 

The conjugal diamonds from History Natural - 1926 by Max Ernst

The conjugal diamonds from History Natural – 1926 by Max Ernst

 

Forest and Sun - 1931, Graphite Frottage on Paper by Max Ernst

Forest and Sun – 1931, Graphite Frottage on Paper by Max Ernst

Max Ernst. La Roue de la lumière (The Wheel of Light) from Histoire Naturelle, introduction by Jean (Hans) Arp. 1926. (Reproduced frottages executed c. 1925). One from a portfolio of 34 collotypes after frottage.

Max Ernst. La Roue de la lumière (The Wheel of Light) from Histoire Naturelle, introduction by Jean (Hans) Arp. 1926. (Reproduced frottages executed c. 1925). One from a portfolio of 34 collotypes after frottage.

The painting below isn’t part of his natural history series but makes use of  a technique he called grattage (scrapping) technique to create the city structures from rubbing the paint over a canvas which had underneath it wood and other textured surfaces. I think it’s a really interesting way to compose the painting, and gives the feeling of something ominous. The city looks almost like it would take over the sky and the moon looks tiny and frail in comparison. Also odd that (and perhaps this is as I’m looking at a photo not the real painting) it doesn’t feel like a rubbing it feels like a painting.

 

 

The Entire City, Oil Painting 1934 - by Max Ernst

The Entire City, Oil Painting 1934 – by Max Ernst

Max Ernst’s frottage technique gives me an idea to do some of my own rubbings based on surfaces in my household that could inspire monoprints for project 13. I’m wondering if I could combine the textures and abstract nature of rubbings with a more structured linoprint of my house over the top?

 

 

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