The Modern World During and After the World Wars, C. 1914–1960

Dada and Surrealism

What is surrealist automatism?

Surrealist artists and writers attempted to free themselves from the restrictions of rationality by tapping directly into their creative subconscious through automatic drawing and writing. André Breton described this process, which he called “pure psychic automatism” in the Surrealist Manifesto, and Surrealist artists such as André Masson, Joan Miro, and Max Ernst are known for their spontaneous, free-form work. Many of Mas-son’s automatic drawings were done with pen and ink, while Ernst developed what he called frottage. In this technique, Ernst made rubbings of textured surfaces, such as wood floor, which were then incorporated into larger collage works.

Les Soupir des Amants (Lover’s Sigh) (1953) by Joan Miró was inspired by the artist’s use of automatic drawing and other surrealist techniques. (Art courtesy The Art Archive / Galleria d’Arte Moderna Rome / Gianni Dagli Orti / © Successió Mirò /ADAGP, Paris, 2013.)


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