Art Term

Grattage

Grattage is a surrealist painting technique that involves laying a canvas prepared with a layer of oil paint over a textured object and then scraping the paint off to create an interesting and unexpected surface

Max Ernst, ‘Forest and Dove’ 1927
Max Ernst
Forest and Dove 1927
Tate
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2017

The technique was invented by surrealist artist Max Ernst. Having prepared a canvas using grattage, Ernst would then work back into the painting, responding to the unexpected marks and shapes created by the texture. In Ernst’s Forest and Dove the trees appear to have been created by scraping over the backbone of a fish.

Grattage, a French word which translates as ‘scraping’, was developed from another similar technique used by Ernst called frottage.

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