Grattage is a surrealist painting technique developed by Max Ernst in 1926. Richly textured objects such as wood, wire, and basketweaves, along with wet paint and a scraping tool, transfer the textures to the canvas or paper.
Here we approach the technique of grattage in two ways. First, we place a canvas or paper with wet paint over a surface and scrape the paint away to reveal a textured surface beneath. In the second approach, we scratch away a wet layer of paint to reveal colors beneath.
- Sketch Paper
- Acrylic Paint
- Paint Brush
- Textured Surfaces
- Scraping Tool
- Scratching Tool (pointed wooden skewer)
Step 1: Choose a variety of flat textured items or surfaces.
Step 2: Place a piece of canvas or paper over the textured surface.
Step 3: Add paint to the canvas or paper.
Step 4: Using a scraping tool, scrape away the paint while still wet, over top of the textured surface. Be sure to hold the canvas tightly in place while scraping.
Step 5: Allow this layer to dry.
Step 6: Repeat the process with other textures or the same texture.
Step 1: Apply one or more colors of paint onto a canvas or paper. Allow the paint to dry.
Step 2: Apply another layer of paint of a different color on top of the dried layer.
Step 3: While the second layer is wet, use a wooden scratching tool to remove some of the paint and reveal the colors beneath.
Learning and Discussion Questions:
1. To learn more about Max Ernst, watch this video of MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) Curator Anne Umland. At time stamp 4:11, the technique of frottage is discussed.
2. Students of Art History often study the surrealist art movement and Max Ernst. In 2018 a master’s student at The University of Texas at Austin wrote her thesis focused on Ernst’s series of paintings, The Horde, which used the grattage technique. Click here to read her thesis.
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