Frottage is a technique of dry friction which has its origin in graphics. It was developed by the famous surrealist artist Max Ernst. He created hundreds of frottage drawings in the second half of 1925. Thirty-four were published a year later with the title “Histoire naturelle” (Natural History). Today they belong to the most beautiful series of modern graphics.
In this article you will learn what the frottage technique in art is all about, what you need for it and which artists were crucial for its popularity.
How to use the frottage technique in art
For the Frottage you can use various materials as printing plates. There is no limit to your imagination. The only requirement is that the materials you use have a relief and a rough surface structure.
You use paper as the printing medium. It is placed over the object and carefully fixated with your hands. Then take a soft lead or carbon pencil and rub it over the paper. As you rub the paper the surface texture of your desired object is transferred to the paper. It will become graphically visible.
What is being used as a printing block does not have to be inked. The result is a blurry image of the material. The raised areas appear darker on the paper because more abrasive graphite sticks to them.
As a printing block, you can take a leaf from a tree or your favorite coin. Once you have started, you will soon notice how many possibilities the frottage technique in art has to offer.
You can create whole works of art like Max Ernst: Landscapes, animals or fantasy creatures. Create your own printing block library and try out new variations and creations over and over again. The frottage technique is a very special form of expression. You can enhance it with painting techniques or create a completely new piece of art by turning it into a collage.
The historian Patrik Waldberg writes that in 1925 Max Ernst was in a guest house by the sea in rainy weather. There he looked at the ridges in the washed out ground. The grooves of the wooden planks were deepened by thousands of scratches. He felt deeply inspired by the fascination that emerged from the texture.
He made a series of drawings of these wooden floorboards. Then he began to examine the various materials that came to his attention in the same way: Leaves and their veins, the frayed edges of a canvas and the brushstrokes of a modern painting.